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This old Macdoel church helps rescued dogs find their forever homes

Jessica Skropanic
Redding Record Searchlight
US Army veterans Nichole Imlay enjoys a playful moment with some of her foster dogs. She and business partner Georgine Murphy co-own That Place Called Home dog rescue.

This month, a Siskiyou County dog rescue marks it's first anniversary operating out of a century-old Macdoel church and parish.

While the job of restoring the derelict buildings will take years, having a dog rescue is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for one Weed woman.

This January, U.S. Army veterans Nichole Imlay and her husband, Bud Imlay, have fewer mouths to feed than usual.

Adoptions over the past couple of  weeks reduced the number of foster pets in their Weed home from 17 to 14, Imlay said. Those who remain include some older dogs who have lived with the couple for years. 

Imlay, 48, is one half of the partnership behind “That Place Called Home” animal rescue.

Imlay’s business partner, Georgine Murphy, 62, was fostering another 13 dogs when she and Imlay announced on Facebook they admitted an emaciated mother dog with seven puppies on Jan. 5.

When they purchased the Macdoel church and parish for $20,000 in January 2020, the buildings had been vacant for 10 years, Imlay said.

They fundraised and spent their savings putting up a fence, installing a bathroom — the one in the parish had collapsed through the floor, roofing the parish and restoring water, heat and electricity to both buildings.

They did so while caring for 30-plus canines.

Well socialized dogs are free to play and interact inside the fence, Imlay said. Each heated room in the church and parish is a fully-appointed dog bedroom. There’s also a puppy room.

That Place Called Home pet rescue purchased this derelict church in Macdoel in January, 2020.

Dogs bunk with each other when they get along, Imlay said. Otherwise they have their own room. “We don’t keep our dogs in kennels."

All other rooms are occupied, so Murphy sleeps in the parish living room.

Dogs are separated until they are tested and socialized. Then they can join the free-range dogs within the fenced area, a bit more than half an acre of space. Neighborhood children and other volunteers help care for and socialize them.

The dogs they recue often have special needs, are crippled or very old, or were abused or neglected, Imlay said. “We created this rescue for the dogs that are left behind, the hardest to adopt, (or) that aren’t the most beautiful.”

Running a non-profit pet rescue is part of Imlay’s lifelong passion for animals.

Foster dogs under the care of That Place Called Home pet rescue in Siskiyou County. The rescue bought a vacant property in Macdoel in January 2020.

The Dunsmuir native said she has been “a crazy spastic dog lover” since she was 5 years old. That’s when her mother took her to the movie “The Blob.”

“When the blob ate a dog, I started screaming in the theater,” she said.

Imlay started rescuing dogs en masse when she and Imlay moved to Texas in 2014.

“Texas has the worst dog problem I’ve ever seen — dogs running on the road, dead on the road,” she said. “Within three days of being there, two dogs showed up at our place.”

During the two years they lived on their 5-acre farm, the couple fostered around 200 dogs.

Imlay retired from the Army in 2016, Imlay said, so "we bought a huge RV, put our 16 dogs in it, and (moved) to Weed.”

Imlay met Murphy shortly after, and the two hatched their plan to open the rescue.

That Place Called Home pet rescue purchased this derelict church and adjacent parish house in Macdoel in January, 2020.

One year into realizing their dream, there is still a lot of work and fundraising to do to restore the former church and parish, Imlay said. Setbacks including repairs made after a vandal ruined equipment and damaged property last fall.

Some of the donors who helped the most were people she knew in the army, Imlay said. Four of the rescue’s five board members are veterans.

“It’s such a blessing to have people who believe in us,” she said.

When space allows, Imlay and Murphy offer free pet boarding for veterans who need to go to the hospital.

For more information, to help foster dogs or to make an appointment to see a dog, call 801-889-6188, email thatplacecalledhome@gmail.com, visit on Facebook or write to That Place Called Home at P.O. Box 217, Macdoel, California 96058.

Jessica Skropanic is a features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and entertainment stories. Follow her on Twitter @RS_JSkropanic and on Facebook