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Felines find friends, sanctuary in Clovis shelter

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. - Jane West, wife of Col. Scott West, 27th Fighter Wing commander, an avid pet lover,  holds one of the cats living at Sundance Ranch. Sundance receives cats from a variety of places. During last year's hurricanes, they received more than 30 to care for at the ranch. (U.S. Air Force photo by Janet Taylor-Birkey)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. - Jane West, wife of Col. Scott West, 27th Fighter Wing commander, an avid pet lover, holds one of the cats living at Sundance Ranch. Sundance receives cats from a variety of places. During last year's hurricanes, they received more than 30 to care for at the ranch. (U.S. Air Force photo by Janet Taylor-Birkey)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- When an unfortunate accident took the life of his cat, Sundance, Doug Johnson promised he was not going to watch another cat needlessly die. 

That was four years and more than 8,156 cats ago. 

Since then, Mr. Johnson has turned his attention to making better lives for homeless cats by building a home where cats can live until they are adopted. Some of the cats live out their lives at the sanctuary, or simply find a safe, comfortable place to stay until they are returned to their owner. 

The home, named Sundance Ranch Feline Sanctuary after his cat, was built and is maintained with the help of local volunteers, including a few Cannon Airmen, to care for 80 cats. Sundance has housed as many as 150 cats, but that is not the ideal, said Mr. Johnson, because crowding causes disease and aggression. 

Jane West, wife of Col. Scott West, 27th Fighter Wing commander, said she supports Sundance sanctuary and the work they do to protect cats. “I’ve recently adopted a young cat from [Sundance], and plan on volunteering,” said Mrs. West. 

“All of the cats I’ve owned in my life have been adopted from shelters. While buying an animal from a breeder is the best choice for some people, I prefer to save an animal from an uncertain future,” she said. 

Saving cats from an uncertain future is one of Sundance’s more distinct features. “We are the only no-kill sanctuary within a hundred miles,” said Mr. Johnson. 

Living in the comfort of the no-kill rule, cats at the sanctuary live in a no-cage, community setting complete with air-conditioning and television. For exercise, they have the opportunity to stroll the built-in catwalks and stairs and play in the fenced area outdoors.
Many of the cats at Sundance are blind, missing limbs, mentally ill or have diseases such as diabetes or epilepsy. While receiving many cats needing extra attention, Sundance also has been home to several purebreds worth more than $1,000. However, no matter the breed or condition of the cat, each is treated as valuable and given a name. 

Before adopting an animal, people should realistically look at their lifestyle to determine is and what kind of animal fits into their lifestyle. 

“An animal can really impact a family’s life in positive ways, but are not for everyone,” said Mrs. West. “Cats can be destructive to furniture if not trained correctly, and many people have allergies that they were not aware of prior to adopting an animal. 

“Military folks, especially, should keep in mind that when PSCing, traveling with animals, particularly overseas, requires specific medical records, immunizations, etc., and in some cases lengthy quarantines,” said Mrs. West. “For those reasons, cats are not necessarily the best choice for Air Force families if they're not willing to incur the hassle and expenses associated with moving frequently.”