As the sun peaks through the barn’s open door, Beau the American chinchilla rabbit hops closer to the people nearby. Bonnie Dennis can’t help but smile.
“He is really friendly,” Dennis said, pointing to Beau’s fluffy coat.
Dennis, who helped found Fuzzy Faces Rescue in Clayton earlier this year, hopes to bring the same joy she gets from rabbits, horses and dogs to others. She and the other volunteers who run the new nonprofit aim to provide therapy for people and homes to endangered species like Beau.
In January, the group bought 17 acres off of Shotwell Road, a space with large green fields and two ponds. The idea is to build natural habitats that are handicap accessible, as the group will cater to children and adults with physical, mental and emotional disabilities.
“It’s too pretty not to share,” Dennis said.
Dennis said she saw first-hand the healing nature of animals through groups like Horses for Hope of Raleigh, which provides therapeutic riding for people with disabilities. She and her husband, George, saw an opportunity last September to bring therapeutic riding to Clayton, and the idea started snowballing into a broader endeavor.
Eventually, Fuzzy Faces will rely heavily on The Livestock Conservancy to find and rescue animals on the verge of extinction.
Currently, Fuzzy Faces has two Caspian ponies, which will make their debut giving rides to children at the Clayton Harvest and Music Festival on Sept. 20. The group also rescued Beau the chinchilla rabbit, four Saxony ducks and eight cats.
Fuzzy Faces has several therapy dog teams, including one that visited Duke University this month.
“We want to pull animals that other shelters don’t have space for and that have therapeutic potential,” Dennis said.
Fuzzy Faces is just getting started. And while the group’s mission is clear, the nonprofit still lacks the infrastructure needed for the various animal habitats. The group also has plans to build an all-inclusive playground, a community garden and dog agility and training areas – projects that will require funding.
For now, a group of volunteers is helping to get several initial projects off the ground.
Dena Lowry’s daughter, Rachel, heard about Fuzzy Faces through Horses for Hope and signed up to volunteer. Lowry said it was hard not to help out after hearing Dennis describe her dream.
Lowry said the volunteer experience will also be great for her daughter. “It’s going to give her some great exposure and help her in her career path,” she said.
Dennis said Fuzzy Faces can use more volunteers, who can contact the group through its Facebook page. People can also make donations through the group’s website, www.fuzzyfacesrescue.org.