For some very lucky pit bulls in Oregon, their time in a “shelter” is more like time spent in a cozy cabin at summer camp.

These dogs have a total of 55 acres of land — including forest, meadows, hiking trails, and a small country road — which they can use to decompress and feel at home while they’re waiting for an adopter.

Within the wooded acres, pit bulls have their own private cottages. The cottages offer indoor and outdoor space, and while each dog lives separately, shelter staff give the dogs time to socialize, too.

These cottages help shelter staff and volunteers understand what each of the dogs would be like in a home environment. And it’s not just the outside of the cottages that are homelike: inside, they have furniture, artwork, and views of the woods.

Liesl Wilhardt is the Executive Director of this innovative shelter, called Luvable Dog Rescue. Wilhardt told PupJournal that she’s always loved pit bulls, even before she knew what they were called. As a child, Petey from Our Gang was one of her first loves.

Related: These Bonded Senior Dogs Lost Their Home, But Not Their Hope

She found herself drawn to pit bull-type dogs, and while fostering pit bulls started out as a hobby, it turned into full-time rescue work.

Wilhardt knew she wanted these dogs to have a special experience, so she started to build what can only be described as a magical place for pups.

And this dreamy place is making a real difference in dogs’ lives. Wilhardt told PupJournal that Luvable is a place where dogs, many of whom are traumatized, “…don’t have to be afraid, because they will be safe and loved. It’s amazing how quickly they get that message — from us, and from other dogs [at the shelter].

“Dogs are able to communicate that to one another, that they are in safe, good place. The healing power of this place has done miracles for some of the dogs. It’s something special about the place, but also about dogs knowing they’re in a good place and telling the new dogs.”

adoptable dogs hiking

Adoptable dogs Rain and Sky. Source: Luvable Dog Rescue

Luvable continues to innovate, having recently built a “pit bull palace,” which is a much larger building for pit bulls. The cottages will still be used by smaller dogs who are able to live communally, and bully breed dogs will get to use a space befitting their bigger size.

Related: ‘Most Loving Dog Ever’ Teaches Shelter Volunteer How to Trust

Wilhardt also hopes to eventually open a maternity ward for pit bull mothers and their puppies, a population that is at high risk of euthanization. Often, pregnant mothers’ only chance at survival in high-intake shelters is to be pulled by another rescue, like Luvable, that has the resources and ability to care for the dogs.

dog in costume

A magical creature in a magical place. Source: Luvable Dog Rescue

Luvable’s motto is “Place, Pack, and Purpose,” and each of these elements is integral to the shelter. The place is a special one, but while the pups are there, Wilhardt hopes that those who have lost their “pack” (canine or human), or have never had one, can finally experience that sense of belonging.

And dogs’ purpose, in Luvable’s view, is to provide companionship, and to expect love and companionship from their humans in return.

While these dogs’ time at Luvable may only be temporary, they are certainly part of a tight-knit family while they wait to fulfill that purpose.

If you’re interested in learning more or meeting one of Luvable’s adoptable dogs, visit their website.


PupJournal is proudly hosting National #PitBullWeek, or #NPBW, to celebrate blocky-headed wigglebutts, otherwise known as “pit bulls.” It’s time these pups are able to live their lives free from discrimination and harm. You can find articles, videos, and adoptable dogs on our National Pit Bull Week page and on Facebook. Join us by tagging National #PitBullWeek, or #NPBW!


Header images: Kelly Beal Photography (left) / Luvable Dog Rescue (right)

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