Welcome to the ARPA Animal Shelter of the week podcast where we introduce you to incredible organizations around the country that are focused on helping animals. We’re proud to be sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters, and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal shelter.
Saving Grace Animal adoption is dedicated to saving homeless animals and bringing them into a place where they can be loved and cared for while they await their forever homes. They take pride in the fact that the dogs do not live in Kennels. They get plenty of fresh air, and they get to play and interact with other dogs. Saving grace also provides any medical treatment necessary to animals brought in, including vaccines, heartworm testing and spay and neuter.
Hey Molly, welcome to the show. Thank you. I’m glad to be here. Yeah, I’m excited to have you. You are with Saving Grace in North Carolina, and I’m really excited to just kind of dive in. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about saving grace and how it got its start. So I’m in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I have been running Saving Grace for 15 years. I started out after college working with our local shelter, where we did animal control and had adoptions as well. And I saw a big need for place for a lot of people to calm and visit and meet dogs a little bit in the home environment more than the shelter environment.
And I started trying to educate myself on how to choose shelter dogs for families as far as making really good matches, doing a little bit more training on how to evaluate a shelter dog in a shelter environment, a dog that I might not have a whole knowledge about. But sometimes we’re working on a short time frame, so I might not have a whole lot of time to evaluate that dog. So I started just really small and bringing a few dogs to my house as far as fostering and working with some other organizations, and then started Saving Grace, which started small and has just grown into a really busy adoption program here in North Carolina. I definitely like that you started in a shelter. Right. Kind of got your feet wet. I kind of learned a little bit about what’s going on and what the need is.
Tell me a little bit about the evaluation of shelter dogs. What were they doing and what were you noticing? So when they come into a shelter, whether they’ve been a stray or they’ve been a family in a shelter, you get a little bit of everybody. So we get dogs that have never had a family. A lot of them have been strays. We don’t get a whole lot of abuse. A lot of places think, “oh, shelter dogs may have had an abusive home.” There’s more neglect, really than any sort of abuse. We get some of that, but the majority is just they’ve been a stray. They may be live in a rural community where they live among different neighboring homes. And then there’s people who die and their dogs come in or they have moved. And just trying to evaluate it all that’s in an overwhelming situation is really hard to start with.
So when you’re trying to make the decisions on who might get that second chance and who might not. That’s a really overwhelming decision when you have to make that. So I was trying to figure out how I could do the best job. That has come a really long ways in the past 20 years. You know, I think a lot more shelters or doing a lot better as far as more staff and trying to really put all the resources they can towards the dogs and the cats, that are coming in. I think our numbers have gotten a little better since spay and neuter has made a lot of progress in the overpopulation, but they’re still a lot of communities where it is a huge problem, and that’s primarily where I’m still working today in our communities that have the biggest population with the fewest resources.
So I wanted to know a little bit more about how to interact with the dog and how to see what their behavior in a shelter might mean to how it’s gonna transfer to a home to a family and what they would be like there. I think it’s really cool that you started there, found a need talk to people and that led you down this path of starting saving grace 15 years ago. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about the programs that you have there at saving Grace? We have a lot of great programs, but most importantly is our foster program, our adoption program, and our volunteer program. We have an incredible foster team, whether it’s a dog coming in that just needs a week or two to have a foster home, we get a lot of dogs and that might have a broken leg. Or might even dogs in that have had some sort of trauma. Maybe not recently, but it might have happened months ago.
And so we get a lot of dogs in that have an old broken leg that has healed that isn’t able to be repaired any longer. So those types of dogs would go to a foster just for 1 to 2 weeks so they can recover from that surgery, and then they go up for adoption pretty quickly. We have lots of moms and puppies. We still get lots of puppies in our area. They have to go to a foster so that they can have at least a series of several vaccine, so that that way, when they come back in there for adoption and they’re mixed into our general population, that we know that they’re gonna be protected, they could go for, spay neuter and be adopted to adopting families. We want to give them healthy dog. And so anybody who’s under six months goes to a foster home until they have their appropriate vaccines for their age. And like I said, we get a lot of moms and pups a foster home might get a little puppies that’s eight weeks old, and they might only have them for four weeks until they have their vaccines. Or we might have foster homes that are doing puppies that were just newborns.
Just last week, I think we got three moms with three litters of brand new newborns, so those foster homes will have those puppies until they’re 10 weeks when they come back and they’ll be adopted out. So we spay and neuter at 10 to 12 weeks so we don’t let up about anybody until they’re completed with their medical care and they could be spayed and neutered. I’m a big believer in volunteer foster home programs because I think there’s so much that comes out of that not only for the animals but the people as well. There’s so much impact that can happen on both sides of that.
So I love that that’s a basis for your organization. Has that always been the case from when you started 15 years ago? It’s always been the case with the moms and pups just because the situation where we have in our adoption area, it’s not really a good situation for moms and pops because it can be loud, It’s overwhelming. We have lots of the doctors and there’s a whole lot of good chaos because it’s just busy and there’s a lot of dogs coming and go in. There might also be a lot of dogs coming in from different situation, so we want to keep our puppies in a place where they can be healthy until they’re fully vaccinated.
Now we also have our weekend foster program, which is a really great program for our pets as well as the people who host them on the weekend. So we do our host weekend program every other weekend. So you sign up that you’re willing to be a foster family, and you pick up your dog on Friday. You’re not necessarily getting to choose your dog which dog you get, but you give us the information like if you have cats, kids, other dogs if you want. A dog just wants the place to relax and be a couch potato. Or if you’re active and want a busy dog, you might like heights. They’re going out to different places throughout the weekend. We started that four years ago, and that’s been a really great program for, especially the dogs that were with us a little longer. So that gives them a chance to go to a home. It gets a lot of one on one attention that kinda caters to whatever their personality and needs is, but it also gets them out and about in our community.
So they get picked up on Friday evening, they leave with an Adopt Me harness and leash and some of these dogs. They have some really busy weekend system thing at people that email us throughout the weekend, and then “I saw this dog at the brewery,” or “I saw this dog on the Greenway,” or at a sporting event or whatever. “I’m interested with this dog.” So that’s been really great for them to get out about. And it raises awareness for Saving Grace and for shelter dogs while also getting the dogs out and meeting people. They bring their dog back on Sunday night or either Monday before adoption start on Monday, and they submit pictures everything their dog did that weekend with a little write up of album so that we can add that to their profile on our website and also feature them on social media.
So that really helps a lot of our dogs, helps us know them a little bit better, maybe what they like, what they don’t like some of their funny quirks and funny characteristics and also gets them out about. And that’s been really popular with a lot of people that maybe work really long hours during the week or travel for work Monday through Friday and can’t have an off. It gives them an opportunity to have a dog on weekend and also a dog to have a person for the weekend. That’s been really great for us.
First up, I’m curious why every other weekend. But I think the really cool part of that is this sounds like something that you guys really thought about before you executed. I want to know how that came about. And why is that working in your community? So I had a couple of volunteers who brought the program to me and said, “we’d like to do this” and I said, “that’d be great.” They’ve done a really great job. We would love to go to every single weekend. We just need the volunteers who are willing to help us see that through. So it takes a lot of time to get in everybody’s request what they want, then in time matching them with the right dog in here on Friday night. We usually have about 40 to 50 family show up. Different people have different needs. The time it takes to get the dog to the foster person takes a couple of hours on Friday night, so we don’t have right now the volunteers who are willing to do that every single weekend.
You know, you also spend a lot of time answering questions for people who might not have a lot of dog experience. It takes time throughout the weekend to work with those people, too, so we would love to do it every single weekend. If we can’t get enough volunteers who would be willing to help us. Weekend seems to be a really great time for dogs to go out and enjoy being in a family, but not bond to the point where when they come back, they feel like they’re left. I do think some dogs, especially, who have been in a home before they go and they get comfortable and it is hard to come back. Majority of them, though two nights it’s not really enough time for them to be transitioned as part of that home. It’s still a little bit more like a slumber party. Get away a fun trip and they come back. So that seems to be a good amount of time where they can go out and have a good time but not get settled into a routine. So they still come back to us and aren’t traumatized or upset for coming back.
We don’t do it options on Saturday and Sunday. We are so busy with adoptions Monday through Friday that it’s better for them to be out about meeting people than it is to be with us when there’s not people in and out all the time. So it works out really well, 40 to 50 families every other weekend. That’s actually pretty good if you’re getting that consistently. So it sounds like you guys have a lot of community support, which is always the number one reason why programs either fail or succeed. So it sounds like you’re definitely getting great participation consistently. And then the other one that was really interesting to me is that you don’t do adoptions on the weekends.
Usually the weekend is the heavy hitter. Was that something that you saw in the community and just how the community works? Or is that something that you’ve kind of had to train them on? Because this is a home for a lot of the residents here. We have farm animals. Some variety of dogs and pets live here, having to open to everyone Monday through Friday, five days a week. We had to pick a least two days where we just don’t have our home open to everyone in the public like it would be for anybody who has a home. You just kind of need two days to be able to regroup. So we do partner with multiple spay and neuter clinics here, including the veterinary school in Raleigh. All of these places are open Monday through Friday. So all of our vet hospitals and our spay and neuter the different universities we work with. We needed to be able to get the dogs there in the week for their necessary medical care.
We only have one full time adoption counselor, and we have two part times they are here Monday through Friday for adoptions. So we do offer adoptions in the evening, Monday through Friday if somebody wants to adopt and they are working full time when we set up a new appointment for them to come and visit Meet the Dogs in the evening after work. And since the majority of my volunteers were willing to give their time Monday through Friday, we had to kind of go with that, which is really surprising because I would think a lot of people are willing to volunteer on the weekend, but we have found its kind of opposite. We have a much more routine volunteer base Monday through Friday. People absolutely come in and volunteer on the weekends, and we depend on that and they do a great job. But it’s different people. It’s a little bit more transient on the weekends, whereas our weekday volunteers are really committed to their day in their time and coming in, and so that makes it easier for us to schedule adoption appointment.
So that’s how we ended up going back to Monday through Friday. It works for our volunteers. It works for our state. And our clinics, our veterinary hospitals, our shelters and we make it work out for our adopters again. If we had a separate facility that wasn’t our home, I think that would be different. I think it’s really unique what you guys are doing. The Monday through Friday focus. It definitely seems to be working for you. I want to know what that community is like for you had mentioned that you bring in animals from outside, why that is where they’re coming from? What’s the need in your community versus where you’re getting the animals from? We have a really amazing community in Raleigh Durham, Chapel Hill. We’re right by research triangle. So it’s a heavily populated area with a lot of people who are looking for a great family pet. So those are primarily where our adoption families are and where they’re coming to us to find. So a lot of the dog do not come from right here in our county or locally there, mostly from the very rural areas across North Carolina. And they have a huge overpopulation problem.
There’s not a whole lot of resources for spay and neuter. So those dogs are going into the shelters because once you have a litter, it becomes a community problem. And so animal control picks up those dogs. There’s a very small percentage coming in to adopt compared to the unwanted animals coming in. So we try to partner with those counties and go and choose dogs that are gonna be great family companions but might not have an opportunity there, and so we bring them to our community. Here in the Wake County area. We do all their vaccines there, spay and neuter, their microchips, many are heartworm positive because we’re in a heartworm positive area so we do all of that veterinary care and then place them up for adoption. You guys are basically saying to those other organizations within your state, we have an opportunity to help dogs from not that far away. Just because they’re not in your community doesn’t mean there’s not transport needed. Right. Logistics, all of these other things.
How many organizations in North Carolina are you guys currently working with? So we worked with about 14 county animal controls. Some of them do send dogs north, and I think that’s a great program because there are more adults coming in in North Carolina, then we could ever place within our state. It takes more work, and some shelters just don’t have the resources whether it’s the money for the health certificates, this spay and neuter, hold time or necessarily the medical care to provide for these animals until they can be transported up north as well as the manpower. I mean, it takes a lot of time for somebody on this end to coordinate with the shelter up there, but when you’re in a shelter in a rural community where you barely have the manpower to get everyone today. That’s not necessarily a resource that they have, but different counties do have different resources available. So we primarily concentrate on the counties that don’t have anything. In that way, they can come to us and have an option for adoption.
I really like that thought process. It seems very well thought out. I think people are quick to transport as far north as they can get. But to your point, it is a logistical nightmare. There are so many things you have to worry about, and you have to build relationships and exchange e-mails and have phone calls. There’s so many things that go into that, and I love that you’re reaching out to the ones in North Carolina who could benefit most. Not only do you have one or two, but working with 14 counties in one state, and that’s incredible if a hurricane comes. We work with about 50 counties, but I think our rescue community or shelter, our state overall, is really good at working together, but with the whole situation where you say, “how can we give the best opportunity to the most animals?”
One of the things that intrigued me when you were first talking is that you had mentioned that you have farm animals as well, and I want to kind of know a little bit about how that got started. This farm that has now become this shelter. The farm here has always been a farm for livestock and different types of farming things for North Carolina. But as far as since I’ve been here, it started out mostly with the dogs, and I do have a few farm animals that have come from different shelters. Our biggest population is our potbelly pigs, so we currently have 22 potbelly pigs, and they all are spayed and neutered and vaccinated, embedded as well. So we do adopt those out. We’re always looking for someone to adopt their pigs because there’s always other pigs waiting to come here for an adoption chance. We do have a couple of large farm pigs. They don’t often get adopted, and then we have a couple of goats that have come from different cruelty cases or shelters across North Carolina. We have basically a little sanctuary.
It’s fascinating that you’re opening your organization to any animal in need. If you can care for them and you have the tools and the resources. How cool is that to be able to be supported by your community and to be able to take on those additional opportunities. Our volunteers are responsible for making that happen as well, because they come in and they see the need. They really follow through with not only their time and service, but also bringing in the rest of our community and letting them know the need. And we can never bring in animals if we don’t have the funds and the sponsorship and the foster to take care even. No, it definitely sounds like you guys are doing a great job.
I want to talk about something that I happen to see on your website called Raise the Rough. Why don’t you share with the listening audience what that’s all about? So we have a lot of great outdoor space, but our facility is very, very minimal. We don’t have a kitchen. We don’t have a bathtub for the dogs or laundry services. Our dish area is still where they’re done in the water hose. So we serve 100 dogs, two meals, a day, So that’s at least 200 dishes done in the water hose. It works for a lot of the year, but sometimes the weather is just not good, whether it’s raining or freezing. We’re looking for the resources to build a building, and it’s gonna cost us about $1.5 million to build that would be a better environment for our dogs to stay. Everybody sleeps in a crate at night. Right now, they’re in an old farm building.
That building was built over 100 years ago, and it’s not at all able to take the wear and the tear that’s already had much less housing. All of our shelter box. We don’t have any indoor meeting areas. People who are coming that are looking to adopt. They only have the outdoors. Is it raining? It’s cold, it’s really hot. It makes it really difficult for them to come and have a place to sit and enjoyably meet the dogs. It is a little bit of a deterrent sometimes for people who are coming up. We need a place where we could have an intake room. So when the dogs you’re coming in a lot of times, and I’ve been on the van for the whole day. They need to have their medical treatment and their intake vaccinations and that sort of thing done. So we need a place for that. We do have someone comes in a couple days a week, and she needs a space where we can have dogs that need to be seen, which is kind of difficult when you’re trying to do any sort of veterinary care.
So we are working on raising the money to build that building, and it’ll be a fairly small building. But we’ll make a huge difference to us, of course, in that process we have been working with their county, and they’ve given us a list of things we have to become compliant in so that we can continue to operate. I’m in awe as I sit here. I’m like, How is she doing helping all these other counties, and I know what’s with the support of the volunteers in the community, but to your point, you do need adequate space and buildings and tools, and you have 15 years of blood, sweat and tears into this organization, and you’re now to a point where it’s no longer a want. It’s in need for you to continue and not only continue but to do more. I feel like the potential with the right tools for you guys is through the roof
Are you guys at in that campaign? When did that start? And then how much time do you have left? We have just started in the process, so we’re working on fundraising. We have a great fund raising team, we’re working on some grants that we hope will be an option for us is, well, it’s getting some supplies donated to finish the current projects. And then once we do that, we’re gonna turn our focus to the new building, and it does seem like they’re so far to go. But I know that there is so much support in our community, so we’re hoping that they will support us throughout this trip. It’s a kind of a partnership within Saving Grace. Well, we’ve placed over 22,000 dogs at this point, and there’s a lot of shelters that have really amazing facilities that are millions of dollars that haven’t done that.
So I think the people and their dedication here speaks volumes of what we could do when we do have the appropriate facility to make it continue to happen. So it’s not getting any slower for us here. We are always hoping that the overpopulation problem will continue to get better, but we’re still in a place where we need a lot of help. I’m just amazed honestly at what you’ve been able to do with where you guys are at and the tools and resources. I just think overall, it’s incredible, and I’ve really enjoyed my time learning from you, Molly.
One of my favorite parts of this entire conversation is memorable stories I’m looking for maybe just one really special story that just stands out to you. And what’s that one go-to story for you that puts a smile on your face. We have a reunion picnic every fall in September. There’s usually several hundred people in several hundred dogs that attend. We get a lot of little fluffy dogs that are so mad it we can’t even tell. Is this the male or female? And so we have to shave it down and they come back for our picnic or send us pictures throughout the year and say, “this is how he’s doing”, you know, “how good he looks” and it looks like a beautiful show off. I don’t know that that dog came from us, but they definitely will be different once they’ve been in a home for a few months and have that basic care and their basic needs met.
One of my favorite dogs was Carolina. She was like a pit bull that was a big dog. She was so emaciated and so shut down. She had so many puncture wounds and was in such bad shape. You know, when I went to a shelter one day and I thought, “well, I only have a certain amount of space is for dogs that can take today. She’s probably not gonna be one that’s kind of thrived and make it.” So I kept thinking about her and I went back and I got a couple days later I was like, “well, I’ll take her and give her a chance.” She did really well. I saw her a few months later, and I only know it was her because she was missing part of her lip where she had probably been a bait dog. I would have never known that was the same dog except for she had that missing part. She has no scars. She has a beautiful hair coat. She has a great family. You would never know that that’s how she started.
There’s more of those dogs than I could ever count. I have again, a great adoption team, a great dog into your program. You know, I see them at a point where they need the help the most. I don’t always see them as they’re getting adopted, and I see them later, and it’s just amazing how much better they are doing. So we do 50 to 70 adoptions a week. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all of them as they leave. But I pretty much always remember the ones that were a really tough case. 50 to 70 a week. It’s pretty intense. Yeah, it definitely is. I love this story about Carolina. It’s amazing that no matter what they’ve been through, they’re able to get past. That’s pretty special. Something you just can’t deny. Yeah.
What do you guys have coming up? I know you’ve got a lot of fundraising and different things that you guys are looking for. Is there anything that you want to share? We have our Labor Day open house, which is from 26 and that’s a great time to come out. You can just check us out. You don’t have to be interested in adopting. There’s nothing specific. You have to come for you just come check us out, meet lots of dogs, of course pigs. We have food trucks. You can bring a donation. A lot of times people will bring a bag of food or something. Off of our website, we have a wish list on our website where people can send us a donation. They could either mail it in or make a donation to the website.
And we have also our supply wish list there, too. Just see what we’re about. Check out volunteering and meet dogs. We also do that on Black Friday. That is another busy day. A lot of people in our community like to bring their family out to sea Saving Grace. After all your crazy shopping in the morning, you can come out and have a lot of dogs for a lot of stress relief. So that’s always an interesting day. We have lots of adoptions going on that day, lots of people just coming to visit. And then we do have our reunion picnic that I was just saying a good time to see lots of dogs come back that have been adopted over the past 15 years. You don’t have to have a dog to come. It’s catered. It’s a great picnic day. You can just let us know you’re coming and RSVP and that is on September 22nd. That’s on a Sunday afternoon.
All of our events are on our website at SavingGraceNC.org we also have a really great Facebook page. We’re trying to be better with our Instagram. We have all of those outlets. People wanna go there and look. We also have foster orientation and volunteer orientation a couple of times a month. Those are all posted on our website also, and we always want to encourage people to volunteer and foster. There’s so many different ways to do, though you don’t have to be somebody who’s big and strong and can help rotate the big dogs It can be somebody who’s just willing to help us with paperwork, or we rely on transports a lot. If there’s a dog in a shelter on a certain day whose time might be out, then we need somebody who can go get that dog.
So we just have a variety of things. I definitely like that. And I will say that the raise the roof is that also on the website, or how can people donate to you if they’re interested in helping you with that? We have a link on there which is on the Web site that we use for our fundraising. So on there. I’m pretty sure you can distinguish if it’s for a raise the roof, which would be new building or just for our daily funds for providing medical care and keep everybody going here. So we also have PayPal, and you can also mail a check in that P.O. Box 1649 Wake Forest, North Carolina 27588 and then if you send a check, you can write, raise the roof or to the General Fund, and we can use that in any way.
Molly, I’ve really enjoyed my time with you. Is there anything that we may have missed before we wrap things up that you want to mention? I don’t think so. Well, that’s good. That means we hit them all, right? You have a great little cottage here by us. It’s a saving grace. Those people ever want to come down and meet our dogs. We wanted to be able to offer that to states that might not have a hole lot of shelter dogs available. You can make a little trip and visit us. Very cool, Molly, Thank you for joining us. Thank you so much for having me. Perfect.
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