Happy and free to roam is what a dog loves to be and at the Sheep Dung Properties for a very precious moment in time, we are.
Well you could have me chasing my tail with excitement at what I have discovered! Along Highway 128, in the town of Boonville in Mendocino County, a place exists in the heart of Anderson Valley where uprights and their beloved four legged companions can bask in the simple pleasure of over 800 acres of unspoiled nature in safety and tranquil isolation. Sheep Dung Properties, which includes The Other Place and Long Valley Ranch, offer canines and the uprights a wonderful opportunity to share an amazing human and doggie get-away experience, in what can only be described as a Doggie Paradise.
Sheep Dung Properties is owned, designed, built, nurtured and operated with love, attention to detail, comfort and sophistication by Ann and Aaron Bennett. These two amazingly talented and conservation-conscious Anderson Valley locals have created a get-away sanctuary of amazing serenity, offering guests the ultimate in private indulgence and comfort. Formally Sheep Dung Estates, Ann and Aaron relocated and changed the name from Estates to Properties in 2003, when they sold the original Sheep Dung Estates that had been an off-the-grid hidden oasis since 1991 in the town of Yorkville and bought 800 acres of what was once The Moonie Ranch of the Unification Church founded by Sun Myung Moon.
I first had the opportunity to get to know Ann when we worked together at Bark in the Park in San Jose in 2011, and along with providing me with lots of yummy treats she told me all about some incredible properties that she has in Anderson Valley where I could run free. Could this really be true? Well little did I know that an invitation for me to come and stay had been offered and my dads had arranged for us to spend a couple of days at the Other Place property.
Regular followers of my blog know how much I love a road trip. So you will not be too surprised to learn that once I saw my traveling bag and all the goodies that go into it on the bed in the guest room, I never left either one of my dads’ sides until I made sure that everything I would need was safely packed and loaded in the car, especially me.
We were to stay at The Breezeway one of four distinct “California County Cottages” as Ann likes to describe them. The Other Place is situated overlooking the town of Boonville, with magnificent views of the picturesque Anderson Valley. Our cottage was one of two original structures that were used as chinchilla barns. Darn, I did check and there are no chinchillas left to play with.
Here’s how I first knew this was going to be a really cool place. Once you turn into the property off Highway 128 you drive through the middle of a vineyard, over a cool modern bridge and begin to climb the valley side. We had to first stop and open a gate, drive the car through and of course close it back up. When we arrived and pulled up to our abode my dads opened the car door as usual and guess what? I was not told to wait while a leash (or as I refer to it a ‘The Freedom Preventer’ is attached) my dad just said “Hairy, off you go,” well I wasn’t quite sure if I had heard right, so I gave him a curious look, a slight tilt of my head and my best wide eyed stare and waited for clarification. “It’s OK Hairy, you can go.” Well this dog did not need telling twice. So leash free, I jumped out of the car and immediately my senses were overwhelmed by the assortment of smells that enveloped me, automatically my nose twitched excitedly, I aimed it down to the ground and I was off exploring. I started with the rocks and shrubs closest to the house, after a brief exploration of the Weber Grill, then I climbed the stairs to inspect the wood stack. Suddenly I found myself looking through the entrance of the Breezeway and I felt like I was on top of the world as stretched out before me was the amazing Anderson Valley, viewed from way on high in all its magnificent glory, as I had never seen it before.
One of my dads had disappeared inside the cottage and the other had begun to unload the car of all my goodies, so I thought it best if I accompanied him. Usually several trips to unload the car are made and I wanted to make sure that they did not forget anything, especially if it belonged to me. Also, there were some more very curious smells I needed to investigate, could they be the ghost of chinchillas past? With everything unloaded from the car, I found myself staring out of this wall of glass with its unparalleled panoramic views, savoring the tranquility and marveling at the vista before us. Noticing my curiosity and fixation on the view my dad quickly brought one of the footstools over to the window and put my seat pillow on it, I jumped up and while my dads unpacked I sat contentedly watching nature and the world.
A little while later my bowls were set out (metal dog bowls and place mats are provided if you forget yours) and a nice cool drink of water sounded really good, so off I hopped from my perch and after quenching my thirst I decided it was time for another investigation of the house. As I toured the inside of the building I noticed that there were more doors that open onto outside decks, off the living room and off the master bedroom. All of a sudden, I was in one door and out another, darting across the breezeway from one part of the house to the other. Then down the steps where I roamed from one garden bed to another, wait there were rolling hills to explore and lawns to frolic on and bushes and trees with interesting smells to say ‘hello’ to. All in all I had close to four acres to explore securely that were all mine during our stay as every area at the Other Place is completely fenced. Of course my dads don’t really ever let me out of their sight, so even with this vast potential for freedom I have to stay visible and within calling distance, but it doesn’t stop me from having a very good romp.
After some time of unadorned exploration and as dusk descended I rested a while on one of the Adirondack chairs and stared contentedly across the valley. Then all of a sudden I heard voices, I heard familiar voices, I turned around and looked back towards the house and there were my dear friends Robert and Travis. I quickly jumped down and raced over to give them lots of kisses. Soon we were all watching the sunset and I was listening to the uprights clinking glasses and laughing, watching the sun set and the landscape grow dark. I was snuggly warm on my upright’s lap, being petted by the hands of uprights I adore, safe from the harms of this world, capturing and storing all those great memories that I will relive time and again in my dreams. As darkness settled over the valley, the uprights drove into the town of Boonville and as I napped in the car the uprights had what I heard them refer to as a wonderful dinner at Lauren’s Restaurant. [For more on the town read my Boonville review].
After a warm snuggly night where I dreamed of continued freedom, I woke up in the morning refreshed and ventured once again outside to make a very thorough investigation of the property. During the night I had heard activity of the nocturnal kind and so I knew that we had night visitors. So off I went as I needed to find out who they were and what they had left for me to sniff and mark, after all this was my domain for two days. After my morning constitutional and chasing of the odd rabbit and wild turkey, I sat once more in the Adirondack chairs and watched the morning traffic below (birds, cattle and such) while posing for more photos. After such a busy morning I was glad to return inside where I sat at the dining table and had a delicious breakfast with my dads of chicken apple sausage, scrambled eggs, croissants and fresh fruit. I then took the opportunity to take a quick siesta as the uprights cleaned up the breakfast things. Throughout the Breezeway Cottage there are so many eye level perches for me to sit and stare and to keep an attentive eye, to do my job and keep good guard over the uprights that I love.
After breakfast more fun and adventure awaited, we took a trip back down the hill to the office to meet the owner, Anne, and Renee the office manager. Here I came upon a very bizarre and fun sculpture with a wonderful Californian history. Welcoming The Other Place visitors is one of the original mascot heads that adorned the Doggie Diner Hot Dog chain’s Santa Rosa location. (For a fun and historic perspective of this unique piece of Americana check out this link: http://doggiediner.com/pages/hist_main.html).
When we finally went back up the hill, we got to explore the pond were I am told in the warmer months is a perfect place for canine and humans alike to cool off and the Old Red Barn that is in the process of being lovingly restored. At The Other Place we are not just confined to our own private four fenced-in acres, we are free to wander and hike the various nature trails with our uprights chaperoning us, of course. After all there are other two and four-legged occupants of The Other Place that also call this paradise home and some may not always want to play.
For the second night of our stay the uprights decided to eat in. They had picked up some supplies from some of the local Boonville stores, premade lasagna, local organic produce for a salad, crusty artisan bread and cheese (my favorite) and more excellent local wine. So with a roaring fire, me by their side and the amazing sight of a winter storm gathering on the horizon, we spent a truly satisfying evening as a family.
At the Other Place and Long Valley Ranch, rural sophistication melds seamlessly with nature. Each separate dwelling is unique in architecture and landscape. Each of the Sheep Dung properties is self-contained and fully equipped. The Breezeway has a wood stove fire that really did its job quickly and efficiently. The cottage has books, a DVD player, iPod station, Wi-Fi, board games and pay per view movies in addition to the normal television line up. The Breezeway has a full kitchen and had been thoughtfully stocked with breakfast items from local purveyors; from the Mosswood Café and Bakery there was delicious and healthy breakfast granola, and also included were Clover Dairy milk, delicious Pomo Tierra Orchards organic apple cider, coffee, tea and sweeteners. Oh, and of course, a welcome bottle of wine from one of the vineyards in Anderson Valley, one of the greenest wine growing regions in Mendocino County and the Country.
Even though excellent directions for finding the properties are provided, my dads had some difficulty locating the main entrance off of Highway 128 in Boonville. However, knowing how directionally challenged my dads can sometimes be, it wasn’t that big a surprise. The signage is very discreetly marked which can make it a little bit of a challenge especially if you arrive at night.
So now that you know that Sheep Dung Properties is a little slice of Doggie Heaven in Mendocino County, make sure that your uprights tell their friends who may not have four legged children about Sheep Dung, because it is too good a place not to share.
Whether it is a two night, a week or a month stay, and no matter what the season, a visit to Sheep Dung is always a relaxing and revitalizing experience. If you book, tell them Hairy sent you: www.sheepdung.com.