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Gentle Ben’s Giant Rescue Gives Dogs Run of the House

By Diane Herbst

Photo credit: Noreen Kohl

click image to enlarge

On a three-acre property in rural Zelienople, Pennsylvania, 34 huge breeds of dogs -- Great Pyrenees, St. Bernards, New Foundlands, Great Danes and Mastiffs -- roam free and live in harmony.


This special place is called Gentle Ben’s Giant Breed Rescue, which is also the home of Noreen and Rich Kohl. “Every dog we take in becomes one our kids," says Noreen, "and we keep them for as long as it takes to find them a home."


Gentle Ben’s is located about 30 minutes north of Pittsburgh. The dogs also have free run of the Kohl house, where they hang out when they’re not roaming around one acre of fenced-in land. "Our goal is to socialize the dogs," Noreen says. "To learn the most about a dog is to work them into the group."


Gentle Ben’s, a non-profit, is run solely by and funded primarily by Noreen and Rich, who both work full-time, Noreen as the practice manager of two departments at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Rich as a sheet metal worker. "I've always loved big dogs," says Noreen, who, ironically, grew up with a Peekapoo.


In the last year, Gentle Ben's has found forever homes for 50 dogs. Some of the dogs arrive in rough shape, and the Kohls pay whatever it takes to get their dogs well.


In fact, the name Gentle Ben's originated from one of the dogs the Kohls rescued, a dog they named Gentle Ben. A breeder had a four-month-old Newfoundland puppy with a severe heart problem. "He was going to be euthanized and we said we’d take him," Noreen says.  For top care, the couple drove four hours one way with Gentle Ben to a cardiologist and a general veterinarian. Gentle Ben survived to 18 months. "That was in 2006, and in 2007 we started calling it Gentle Ben's," she says.


To see lots of fun photos of all the dogs, also check out Gentle Ben's Facebook page.

Gentle Ben's goes through 75 pounds of food a day. Freekibble.com was so inspired by their story that they donated 10,000 meals of Halo Spot’s Stew to the rescue. "That," says Noreen, "was a blessing."


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