All articles are written by YJDP Student Correspondents and edited by mentors from The Washington Post prior to publishing.
Sunday afternoons hold special meaning for pet-owners and dog-lovers in the Leesburg area. From 1 to 4 p.m. every week, Petco houses an opportunity to find loving families for homeless dogs through a local non-profit, Save the Tails. Founded nearly five years ago by President Lisa Carter, Save the Tails connects dogs with foster homes, adoption events, and ultimately families, saving over a hundred dogs each year. Their events on Sundays also benefit the volunteers, mainly high school students.
“You get to know you’re making a difference by adopting dogs out,” said Stephen Sholl, volunteer coordinator and senior at Woodgrove High School. “I think that’s really rewarding for all the volunteers.”
Many volunteers are drawn by their love of dogs but some choose to volunteer for personal reasons. Laurel Carpenter began volunteering after adopting her own dog from Save the Tails.
“I want to help give that experience to everyone,” said Carpenter. “These dogs deserve good homes and volunteering will help.”
Carter was inspired to found the charity after a county in West Virginia euthanized over 7,000 dogs in 2008. Currently, Carter is preparing for a fundraiser in Franklin Park on March 2 at 3 p.m., when the Franklin Park Big Band will be performing a benefit concert. Tickets will be $10 and refreshments will be served during intermission.
“We actually hope to meet some new folks who are interested in fostering and to get the word out about save the tails so we can help more dogs,” said Carter.
While some patrons may shy away from adopting dogs through a private group, Save the Tails believes that adoption events remain more reliable than animal shelters or breeders. Additionally, adoption events offer a unique experience to would-be pet owners.
“In an adoption event the people can take the dogs for walks and spend some time [with them] in the area of the store alone, they can ask the foster questions and get actual feedback of how the dog has behaved in the last several weeks,” said Carter.
During adoption events, the aisles between Petco’s cherry red shelves find dogs sitting happily with the volunteers holding them, watching passerby and occasionally barking. The dogs benefit from the time spent meeting new people and dogs, and tail wags abound as they show off their new tricks. Mostly mutts, some volunteers hold dogs in their arms with others hold back friendly mammoths. Although most patrons who introduce themselves to dogs don’t end up adopting, the group maintains an impressive track record of finding permanent homes for the dogs.
According to Sholl, Save the Tails is so successful in adopting out dogs because it dedicates more time to them, pairing dogs carefully with each family.
“Many people unfortunately adopt dogs that they can’t handle and then return them months later. We on the other hand have very few dogs returned,” said Sholl. “I think that’s the most unique thing about Save the Tails: we make sure that, no matter what, the dog you get is the dog you need.”