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North Hills Monthly

Gentle Ben’s Provides a Safe Haven for Giant Breeds

Nov 30, 2017 01:16PM ● By North Hills Monthly magazine

By Megan Brown

Growing up with a small Peekapoo puppy, Noreen Kohl never thought that one day she would own a large breed dog rescue.

Her interest in bigger breeds developed shortly after getting married, when she and her late husband, Rich, got a Pyrenees and then a Newfoundland. A few years later, they began to volunteer with the Newfoundland Club, and when its rescue coordinator moved to another state, they continued to help the rescue but realized that they wanted to expand to other breeds—and Gentle Ben’s Giant Breed Rescue in Zelienople was born.

Kohl’s mission is to try to help as many dogs and families in need as possible, and she provides her animals with any type of medical care they require. When it’s time to be adopted, she looks to place them with the perfect families.

She also helps people who aren’t able to keep their dogs, providing them with updates and letting the previous owners know that their animals are all right. “This way, the owners can focus on their issues and not their dog’s,” Kohl explained. “It gives them peace of mind knowing that the dogs are in a home with a family, and that they are cared for until they find a new home.”

Gentle Ben’s once had between 40 and 50 dogs, but when Kohl’s husband passed away in July of 2016, the number decreased to about half that amount. The job isn’t easy for just one person to do, but Kohl’s love for the dogs keeps her going. 

Many of the dogs she has are seniors age 7 or older who are not up for adoption. Kohl explains that dogs have more medical issues at this age, and most people aren’t looking for a large, older dog since they don’t tend to live as long as a smaller breed would.

“I take in those dogs knowing that they might spend the rest of their lives with me, and that’s perfectly fine,” Kohl said. “They become part of my family. 

“I try to keep two younger ones, so the older ones have the younger ones to play with,” she added.

Since the dogs are in her home and have a big fenced-in yard that allows them to run around freely, Kohl doesn’t often use volunteers. In the summer, however, she occasionally uses volunteers to bathe the dogs for a fun opportunity and to provide exposure to the dogs.

“I’ve met so many wonderful people over the years doing this,” she said of the support she’s received from the local community.

Owning a business like this can be all-consuming, which is why Kohl says that she hasn’t gone away overnight in 17 years. “You have to be committed,” she said. “I absolutely love doing it; I like knowing that the dogs are always there when I get home.”

She added, “It’s a lot of work and a lot of dedication, but it has so many rewards.”

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