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One of the most unique animal rescues that we have in San Diego is tucked away in the hills of Santa Ysabel. The Judith A Bassett Canid Education and Conservation Center is most popularly known for their foxes, but at the time that I visited, they also have New Guinea singing dogs and regular dogs as well.
Amy and David Bassett run the center, which is dedicated to rescuing and providing education about animals of the canid family. Canids consist of both dog and wolf-life animals (canines) and fox-like animals (Vulpines). Both Amy and David have scientific backgrounds, giving them the unique ability to not only rescue and train the canids, but also make advancements through scientific research.
They have a fascinating video on their rescue and how these foxes came to be, which is essentially through many decades of breeding foxes with calm, docile behavioral traits. The results are domesticated foxes with a friendly demeanor similar to a house cat or dog. In fact, many say that the personality traits of a domestic fox is a blend between both cats and dogs. Please give the video a watch to fully understand their mission:
At the JAB center you will get to meet Russian domesticated foxes and the enthusiastic New Guinea singing dogs. The breeds they carry are specific because they hold the answers to understanding how dogs have become domesticated. By learning more about these specific genes and traits in animals, we in turn can learn more about human social disorders.
JAB is largely using their facility as a healing center for people dealing with a whole slew of issues, whether it be PTSD, depression, autism, etc. There is much evidence of the healing power of animals, and canids are no exception. Amy and David’s belief is that “through understanding comes appreciation and through appreciation comes conservation.”
“From Russia With Love” Grand Opening:
Save the date!! On both Satuday & Sunday, October 5-6th, JAB is hosting an afternoon with kid-friendly, scheduled educational presentations, a kids-educational scavenger hunt, craft table, live music and food. Photoshoots with the Ambassador foxes and wolves will be available to purchase in advance. Sunday late afternoon & early evening will be a gala with live music, guest speakers, dinner and a silent auction. Tickets will go on sale early August.
**They are looking for local businesses to provide items for the silent auction, food and beverage vendors for the daytime events and catering for the gala.**
Personal Experience: Once I caught wind that there was an interactive fox rescue in San Diego I knew I had to get in touch. The more I learned about the center’s mission, the more I became further intrigued to visit. They are located in the back-country which is such a nice getaway for most of us. If you come from CA-67, you will make your way past the Santa Ysabel Mission & Cemetery, which I recommend giving a visit.
The drive to their center is a climb and eventually takes you onto a dirt road, so make sure your car is equipped for that. I imagine in winter and after a good rain (or snowfall), it can become a dangerous and challenging drive. The view is beautiful though and showcases the valley below and Lake Henshaw. There are some restaurants in this immediate area too making it a potential full-day adventure if you hit up some of the other unique places around here.
It is definitely a one-of-a-kind experience interacting so closely with foxes. They were extremely sweet and playful, with a constant grin and twinkle in their eyes. They are fascinating creatures. When you make your way to the top of the mountain, look out for this sign. That is how you will know you are at the right spot:
The views up here are stupendous. I can only imagine what it looks like when it’s snowing!
Right when we pulled up we were greeted by one of the owners, Amy, and her New Guinea singing dogs! Just like regular dogs, they were super excited to meet us and were yanking on their leashes for love and attention.
One of the elder New Guinea singing dogs came out to say hello:
We then went to the fox encounter to hang out with two adorable, red foxes!
Look at those eyes!!
I seriously cannot get over how cute his face is!
Hunting a dangling feather toy, just like a cat would!
Posing with this cutie definitely made my day complete!
And one other fox that was lounging when we visited. I guess he is in the process of shedding his winter coat right now which is an uncomfortable process:
The ride back down surely did not disappoint with gorgeous views of Lake Henshaw below!