Blogs > From The Bleacher Seats

A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Monday, January 5, 2015

For a doggone good cause

There’s nothing more unconditional than a dog’s love.
The biggest louse in the world can walk through the door and he is greeted like a king by his waiting mutt. The tail wags and the fanny follows suit. If the owner allows, the dog then unleashes more French kisses than are seen on a weekend of Cinemax.
Dogs ask for little more in return other than food, water, shelter and hopefully, some affection.
Mike Jacopelli of Hawkeye & Friends Dog Rescue & Sanctuary in Imlay City provides all of the above, thank you very much.
“This is the biggest dog house in the world,” said Jacopelli, chuckling.
His dogs live in a 3,000 square-foot pole barn that comes with heat, electricity, rugs to rest on, furniture to recline on and everything a dog could want.
They also have a fenced-in, five-acre site that is great for a dog’s Three Rs; Romping, Rollicking and Roughhousing.
Their constant companion is Jacopelli, a 1980 Troy High grad who went on to attend both Oakland University and Michigan State University.
Don’t get the wrong idea; Jacopelli’s no-kill facility is not for the upper crust of dogdom, either. These are not primped and pampered purebreds getting ready for the pinky up Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Mostly they are older dogs. Mostly they are bigger dogs. Mostly they are dogs that were going to be euthanized at other shelters because nobody wanted to adopt them.
Homer, or “Homie,” typifies the more than 100 dogs at the sanctuary.
Homer the pit bull was dropped off on a road adjacent to Hawkeye & Friends nearly three years ago, said Jacopelli.
Dropped off is a genteel way to describe what really happened.
“Homer was pushed out of a pickup truck. They just threw him out. He was right in the middle of the street, and the mail lady pulled her jeep sideways so nobody would hit him. Homer took one look at me and I could tell he was just heartbroken. He didn’t know what was going on,” said Jacopelli.
Homer is part of the family now.
“I call him Homie the Snuggler,” said Jacopelli.
Not too long ago, a passerby stopped and talked to Jacopelli for quite a while. Before he left, he called the sanctuary “doggie heaven.”
The name of the sanctuary has significance.
Hawkeye was a dog that Jacopelli befriended when he was a student in East Lansing. Hawkeye lived in the house where Jacopelli and some pals resided. Every one of them ran, and Hawkeye would accompany each of them on their daily runs.
One Sunday morning, Jacopelli went out onto the porch to grab the newspaper and a man came jogging up to the porch. Next to him was Hawkeye. The man explained that he’d run by the house about 30 minutes earlier, and Hawkeye just joined him for some exercise.
“Hawkeye loved people,” said Jacopelli. “Young, old, big or small. Hawkeye was your friend.”
That is a might apt description of most dogs. Especially the ones at the sanctuary named after Hawkeye.
“I’ve always loved dogs. When we were kids, we always had dogs,” he said.
After he got out of college, he lived in Ferndale for a while. He had three dogs, and while playing with them in a nearby school yard, a fourth just showed up.
“I didn’t know where he came from. I took that dog up and down the street and nobody knew whose dog it was. I took it to the police station, and then to the city’s animal shelter.”

The next thing he knew, Jacopelli was volunteering at the shelter. Before you can say kibbles and bits, he soon had 13 dogs. The animal control officer, who lived nearby, would stop on occasion and ask how many dogs he had. Jacopelli’s typical response was to ask how many he was allowed to have in Ferndale. When told four, that is the number that Jacopelli claimed to own.
“I’d better not get any complaints,” said the animal control officer, rolling his eyes.
It was time to move. A stop or two later, Jacopelli finds himself in what could be the perfect location.
“It’s a 24-hour a day, seven days a week job,” he said. “There’s no going to the movies or out to dinner; not with all of these dogs.”
He needs some help, though. There is not much money in the dog sanctuary business.
A dog does not ask for much. Just the aforementioned food, water, shelter and affection. All but affection come with a price tag.
For more information on how to help out, visit