Chic Miller of Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary didn't think twice about scaling a cliff in a freezing downpour to reach a quivering dog stuck on a ledge.
Likewise, she's forged creeks, climbed under bridges and over barbed wire to retrieve sacks of far-flung litters of mewing kittens and crying puppies. She's dodged traffic on freeways and sprinted down country roads to scoop up dumped or injured animals.
And in each one of those cases, once Miller saves an animal's life, she brings it home to Bella Vista Animal Sanctuary, acres of well-tended property between Igo and Cottonwood that's located down a narrow rural road. It's home to 65-year-old Chic and her 75-year-old husband Bob. The couple shares the farm with hundreds of animals, just as they have for thousands of animals in the last 30 years.
Once an animal passes through the gates of Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary, it will live out the rest of its days on the farm. The Millers don't adopt out animals, or sell them, or breed them.
Instead, each animal is accepted as a beloved family member at the Bella Vista Animal Sanctuary, a place that's like the Ellis Island of the north state's animal kingdom. There, the Millers care for the tired, the abused, the most cruelly tortured and discarded dogs, cats, birds, goats, rabbits, cows, horses, chickens, peacocks and llamas, to name a few species.
Whether it's a one-legged turkey, a geriatric pig, a territorial rooster, a 2,000-pound bull, or a pair of high-energy baby goats, every animal is guaranteed shelter, food, fresh water, medical attention (Chic's a registered nurse), love, affection and a name.
The 24/7 task to keep the animals happy, comfortable and healthy falls squarely upon the Millers. It's something they do freely, even though it means no vacations, or even a simple night out together. And on Thanksgiving or Christmas, if they're invited for dinner at a friend's home, it means one of them goes, and the other stays behind to watch over the farm.
Kind people stop by the farm periodically to haul hay or clean stalls, but the lion's share of the work is done by the Millers.
And even after all these years, they still hear a common question: "How can we help?"
This year that question is answered in a significant way. The Bella Vista Animal Sanctuary recently became a non-profit organization. This makes it possible for the public to make tax-deductible contributions to the farm, which will help buy food, blankets, medicine and supplies. The Millers dare to dream of a day when they'd have enough funds to provide paid staff.
Meanwhile, to celebrate the animal sanctuary's non-profit milestone, retired Air Force Colonel Pete Stiglich, the Millers' neighbor, organized a committee to host the first official fundraiser for Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary.
The fundraiser is Sat., May 3, at the Cottonwood Community Center, from 5 to 8 p.m. Dinner's at 5:30.
The country-casual event is a spaghetti dinner, complete with salad, bread, non-alcoholic beverages and the opportunity to buy beer and wine (son Josh Domke is one of the bartenders).
In addition to delicious food (disclosure, I'm on the committee, and I'm making dessert), the night will also include raffle and auction items, and fun opportunities to bid on and purchase everything from local artwork, dinner, wine and adventures, to a pasta class for eight (taught by yours truly).
Plus, there will be live music, and a short film about the farm produced by Alan Ernesto Phillips.
Finally, there are chances to meet Chic and Bob, and learn more about their work.'
But they can't stay long. They will need to return to the farm after a few hours to care for the animals.
There's Adobe the goat, Flash the kid, Digger the dog, Amigo the donkey, Midnight the cat, Lulu the pig, Lucy the goose, Ladybug the miniature horse ... and hundreds more, all counting on the Millers to provide them a loving, happy home.
What: Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary Spaghetti dinner fundraiser
When: 5 to 8 p.m., Sat. May 3 (Dinner's at 5:30)
Where: Cottonwood Community Center, 20595 Gas Point Rd. (behind Holiday Market)
Ticket cost: $20 each.
Want to help?:
• Send your tax-deductible donation to Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary, 4301 Lower Gas Point Rd. Cottonwood, CA 96022. (Certified 501-c3 # 46-3920064.)
• Donate a gift or gift certificate for the May 3 raffle by contacting Katharine DeYoung at [email protected]
Ticket locations: Enjoy the Store in Red Bluff, Enjoy the Store in Redding; VCA Gateway Animal Hospital in Anderson; VCA Asher Animal Hospital in Redding; and VCA Companion Animal Hospital in Redding. Online tickets are available at Brown Paper Tickets, by clicking here.
More information: Contact Chic and Bob Miller at 347-0544. Or visit the Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary Facebook page.
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.