Most people picture heaven as a place in the sky with angels playing harps as fluffy clouds drift past.  After visiting Hallie Hill Animal Sanctuary in Hollywood, SC, and seeing their gorgeous green fields, towering old trees and happy animals roaming free, I know my version of heaven.

Hallie Hill is a non-profit organization, founded by Helen Bradham, that provides sanctuary for abandoned, abused and neglected animals.  As an animal lover, Helen originally built up the property as a horse farm where her family and friends could board their beloved animals.  However, as often happens in rural areas such as Hollywood, stray dogs periodically made their way to the farm.  Over time, Helen gained a reputation in the community for housing and caring for these animals and Hallie Hill grew from a horse farm that housed a few strays to the place it is today - a facility with 5 full-time employees that provides love, food, medicine and care for over 200 animals.  

A lot of hard work goes into running a facility such as Hallie Hill.  I spoke with Director Jennifer Middleton to learn all about it.  “A typical day at Hallie Hill starts with medications and the morning feeding.  One staff member distributes the meds while another feeds the dogs in the house, barn and then outer enclosures.  Volunteers arrive and begin visiting different enclosures to spend enrichment time with the dogs and cats.  After morning feeding, staff members will be cleaning enclosures, grooming dogs or cats in need and transporting animals to veterinary appointments.  The afternoon [continues with] more enrichment, cleaning, grass cutting, etc.”  Hallie Hill also has a building that houses around 50 cats and one staff member will clean enclosures and feed the animals, and, of course, give all the love they can.  The day closes with one final walk around the property for afternoon meds and a quick physical health check, along with more treats and hugs.  Jennifer said that they also check to make sure the dogs are not trying to pay a visit to their neighbors by digging a hole into the next enclosure - “[we] make sure they are where they are supposed to be!”  After everyone is tucked in, a staff member will remain on the premises each night to administer evening medications, be on-call for emergencies and to turn on the enclosure heat lamps if the temperature dips too low in the winter.  

Hallie Hill relies on volunteers every day to help them with the myriad of tasks necessary to keep a busy rescue up and running.  If you are at least 18 years of age and have a desire to help animals, volunteering at a place like this is extremely rewarding.  Your first three visits as a volunteer are spent getting oriented to the everyday routine and safety procedures of the sanctuary.  After that, you can spend your time throwing frisbees, grooming, helping with manners or walking down to the pond to hunt for frogs.  Jennifer told me about one of the best aspects of being a volunteer at Hallie Hill.  “Many of the dogs at the sanctuary are extremely shy and some are feral.  The scents of the new people are very stimulating.  After repeated visits, the volunteers are often rewarded by a shy dog finding the courage to approach them for a treat!  This is how trust develops between the under-socialized animals and our volunteers.”  For more information on this program, please email Volunteer Coordinator Dana Clark at dana.clark@halliehill.com.

It is evident how much these animals are loved by Hallie Hill.  Every care is taken to provide them with beautiful surroundings, medical treatment and enrichment.  Jennifer told me they have a full-time maintenance person, Harold Haynes, who keeps the property in top shape.  “[He] starts work early each day, keeping the lawn beautiful (raking, mowing, seeding, etc.), pressure washing the buildings, repairing fences and gates and helping to clean the outdoor enclosures.”  Also, Jennifer noted that volunteers keep a log of each animal they visit so that no one misses out on love.  “It is our goal that someone spends quality time with every animal, every day.”  Hallie Hill also provides any medical treatment necessary to make the dogs and cats in their care comfortable and happy.  The West Ashley Veterinary Clinic (http://www.westashleyvet.com/) has partnered with Hallie Hill for many years.  Jennifer said “We are already missing the newly retired Dr. Merrill Irvin who cared for so many of our animals with incredible skill, patience and kindness.  He also performed outstanding orthopedic surgeries for dogs over the years.”  The vet clinic does all it can to provide discounts to Hallie Hill, however, Jennifer told me that medical expenses are the largest cost they have.  “With so many geriatric dogs and cats, orthopedic surgeries are often needed, as well as medicine for arthritis.  The cost of monthly heartworm and flea preventive is pretty high.  We [also] have many animals with special medical needs such as diabetes or thyroid problems that require medication and prescription food.”  If you would like to donate to Hallie Hill’s medical fund, please visit their website at http://halliehill.com/help/ .  You can mail them a check or money order or simply click on the “Donate” button to contribute online.  

I asked Jennifer to share with me one of her favorite rescue stories from her time as Director.  She told me about sweet Hoss, who was found by a boy riding his bike on Old Jacksonboro Road.  “At first, the boy thought Hoss was dead, but as soon as he saw movement, he rushed to help.  Leaving his bike on the roadside, he carried the emaciated dog home to his mother.  The family quickly realized that Hoss’s situation was critical and he needed medical treatment, so they called Hallie Hill for assistance.”  Weakened by anemia and riddled with intestinal parasites, Hoss could not even stand up on his own.  However, after three weeks of constant love and care provided by this wonderful organization, he finally began to show improvement and his personality began to shine through.  He is now 20 pounds heavier, curious, energetic and ready for adoption!  “It breaks our hearts that someone would do this to any living creature,” Jennifer said, “but it warms our hearts that a young boy stopped to save his life.”  If you are interested in learning more about adopting an animal like Hoss from Hallie Hill, please visit http://halliehill.com/adoptions/ for a list of requirements as well as a link to the adoption questionnaire.  

Hallie Hill is making a big difference in the rescue community. Recently, Helen Bradham received the 2016 Book of Golden Deeds Award from the Exchange Club of Charleston for her contributions to animal welfare. After doing my research and learning everything I did for this article, I cannot think of a more deserving organization. Jennifer assured me that their good works will continue until there are no more homeless animals. "Our goal for Hallie Hill is to continue rehabilitating animals with medical, emotional or behavioral needs, preparing them for life in a private home and providing a sanctuary for those unable to be adopted. Sanctuaries are a critical component in a No Kill community, and we are happy to fill that niche for the Charleston area."