Moses Ark founder Kessea Moses of Menomonie plays with 18-month-old Neel, background, and 5-year-old Love, foreground. Both dogs are rescued street dogs from India.

MENOMONIE — A mother-daughter team has opened an animal rescue and sanctuary in Menomonie that’s now home to abandoned cats and street dogs from across the world.

Kessea Moses and her daughter Alex Erickson opened Moses Ark Rescue and Sanctuary at their sprawling rural Menomonie property in early 2019. The sanctuary is home to eight dogs and 20 cats. The pair’s goal is to prepare the animals for adoption and match them to new families.

Three dogs and nine cats are now available for adoption; eight more cats are considered “sanctuary cats,” Moses said.

“They do well here or they have a few extra needs, so we’re not actively looking, but if someone came and bonded with them, they would be adoptable,” Moses said of the sanctuary cats.

Many of the animals came to Menomonie from all over the globe.

Erickson first met a dog, later named Lizzie, while staying in an outdoor hut in the town of Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

“I was sitting on a rock watching these giant monitor lizards,” Erickson remembered. “All of a sudden there was something licking the back of my arm. I’m thinking, it’s one of these. Instead it’s this cute little dog who plops down on my feet and falls asleep.”

The dog followed Erickson and Moses everywhere and would wait for them at the hut during the day, Erickson said: “We moved on, and we couldn’t get this dog off our minds.”

The pair adopted Lizzie — named after the monitor lizard — and eventually brought her back to the U.S.

Lizzie wasn’t the only animal that accompanied them home. Also during the trip, Moses found Garda, another street dog, near death on a Thai island beach.

Moses and Erickson spent the next days finding a taxi who would transport Garda, taking a boat to the mainland and riding in the back of a pickup truck to a veterinarian, Moses said.

Both Lizzie and Garda have been adopted through Moses Ark, but several disabled street dogs rescued from India are still at the sanctuary.

Five-year-old Love was likely hit by a car in India, Moses said. Her two back legs have been amputated; she came to Moses Ark when a Canadian animal rescue closed down.

“People in rescue help each other so much,” Moses said of the closing. “I had to help her.”

Biku, another street dog between 5 and 6 years old, has severe deformities in all four legs due to inbreeding but can hop, sit up and loves socializing with people, Erickson said.

“We’re hoping to get his back legs strong enough to do a front wheelchair,” Moses said.

Life changes

Before moving to Menomonie, Moses ran a medical examination business that covered Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin, but she sold the company in 2014 to help her husband build his business.

However, Moses’ husband was quickly diagnosed with cancer and passed away nine months later. Moses fought cancer herself afterward, she said.

But it wasn’t until Moses agreed to foster a litter of kittens that she decided she wanted to officially open a rescue and sanctuary and attend school to become a veterinary technician.

Moses searched for the right property for over a year before finding the “perfect place” in rural Menomonie.

The house has multiple garages, a fenced-in outdoor courtyard, a pond and a pool the duo plans to use for animal therapy and rehabilitation.

“We had an unofficial animal rescue, where the house was filled with animals, but we weren’t incorporated yet,” Moses said. “This was just perfect for all the animals we had.”

Erickson, who co-runs the sanctuary with Moses, is finishing her doctoral studies in occupational therapy. Her capstone project: Educating people with disabilities about how to care for their pets.

“A lot of people don’t realize there are a quite a few grants and resources to give people with disabilities extra income to support animals because there’s such a therapeutic benefit,” Erickson said.

Working with the public

The sanctuary has adopted out several dogs and cats and plans to recruit volunteers to assist with cleaning and socializing the animals.

“Trying to give enough attention to that many animals every day is a constant job,” Moses said. “We’d love to get people in the community, whether they’d like to come clean or just pet the animals.”

Moses Ark asks would-be adopters to apply but does not charge an adoption fee.

Moses credits her personal pets — an Oklahoma rescue dog named Priscilla, among others — with getting her through tough times.

“They make me stronger just helping them,” Moses said. “Going through cancer treatments, I couldn’t have gotten through what I did without the emotional support of the animals I had.”

Moses Ark Rescue and Sanctuary can be contacted through their website, mosesarkrescue.com, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mosesarkrescue/.