Our Beginning

All of us at Happy’s Porch have worked together in the animal healthcare field for many years.  As our clients age, they often express concern about what will happen to their pets if something should happen to them. Some say their families cannot keep them. Some say they will have them euthanized. Some have left them to Dr. Lanford in their will! As our work expands into rescue and shelter medicine, the most heartbreaking animals we see are those that have been taken to the shelter due to illness or death of the owner. Without pre-planning, this is often the unfortunate result. These pets are often terrified, exhibiting behaviors that make them unlikely to be adopted. We started to pull some of these animals from shelters and find homes for them. But it is slow, heartbreaking work, and we knew we had to do something more.


Our Vision

Happy’s Porch began as a dream – that no animal will end up abandoned, euthanized, or at a shelter because of their owner’s unfortunate circumstance. The first step is education. Spreading the word that planning for your pet’s care if something happens to you is important. For many people, this means making sure that a family member or trusted friend will adopt your pet. If this is the case, be sure to talk to your attorney and spell it out in your will, making sure that the pet’s financial needs are covered as well. Food, medical care, preventative care, and supplies can quickly add up. If this is not the ideal case for you, consider Happy’s Porch. Our goal is to preserve the human/animal bond for as long as possible. So if an owner is hospitalized, or moves to assisted living or hospice, we will arrange transportation and visitation as often as possible. There is nothing like a visit from your best friend to brighten the day for both of you. If physical visitation is not possible, we can provide video feed, pictures, etc.   If life circumstances improve, we will return your pet to you if you desire. If this is not possible, we keep our residents at the Porch – a beautiful home environment with a large fenced yard, lots of couches and belly rubs, field trips, medical care, and LOVE. Some pets do not do well in a group setting (although we keep our numbers low). Those pets will be carefully fostered out through our network of full vetted volunteers.

Meet the Team

Sally Lanford, DVM

Founder & Director

Dr. Sally Lanford partnered with Dr. Saenger in 1993 to open Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital  Together they built a small practice that was recognized as a Veterinary Economics Practice of Excellence and later accredited (in 2004) by the American Animal Hospital Association. Bees Ferry is now Charleston’s largest AAHA accredited general practice.

Dr Lanford is particularly interested in strengthening the human/animal bond. From helping with pet selection, to teaching classes on introducing pets to new babies, all the way through end of life care and in-home hospice – the special connection between us and our pets is what motivates her. She especially enjoys working with geriatric patients to keep them healthy and active for as long as possible.

When not working, Dr. Lanford is heavily involved in animal rescue work, both in conjunction with the Berkeley Animal Center, and through Bees Ferry Rescues. She also enjoys spending time with family, her daughter Anna who is currently living in Atlanta and her son Jake who attends Yale University.

Karen Ellis, DVM


Dr. Ellis graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1985. Keenly interested in alternative healing methods, Dr. Ellis achieved a certification in Massage Therapy from the Atlanta School of Massage in 1994 and a certification in Neuromuscular Therapy from the Heartwood Institute in 1995. Karen studied Reiki, a Japanese technique for stress reduction, and became a Reiki Master in 1997. She completed training in veterinary acupuncture the same year and was certified by International Veterinary Acupuncture Society. She is working toward a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Herbal Medicine at the Chi Institute, after completing an initial course of training in 1999.

On a personal note, Karen Ellis is an avid organic gardener. She enjoys hiking, flat water kayaking, reading mystery novels and playing with her own pets.

Emily Heidkamp

Public Relations, Fundraising,
Intake and Foster Coordinator

You can search the world and you won’t find anyone with a bigger heart than Emily.

She puts in countless hours transporting animals, reading foster applications, coordinating volunteers, caring for our rescues and volunteering at the Berkeley County Animal Shelter. This is in addition to being a vital part of the Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital staff, a mom to an adorable daughter and a fiancé planning a wedding!

Ariel Imler, DVM (expected 2020)

Ariel has worked at Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital for many years and has worn many hats. She is passionate, dedicated, and tireless in her animal advocacy efforts. She is currently attending veterinary school at the University of Georgia (go Dawgs) and will be working at BFVH and Happy’s Porch before the ink on her diploma is dry.

Nora Brown

Director of Animal Enrichment
Field Trip Coordinator
Cat WhispererNora has been interested in animal welfare her entire life. She is a future veterinarian, and strong animal advocate. She has a gentle spirit that really speaks to the animals, and can calm even the most feral kitten with her patience and kindness. Her primary role is managing our residents mental health  – keeping them busy, brushed, snuggled and loved.