Winnie looked up at Tara with her soft, brown eyes, anticipating Tara’s next move, her next command and waiting for the moment the treat in Tara’s hand could finally be eaten. Seeing the love and warmth in the animal’s eyes awaiting their forever home is worth all the work and love put into the rescues. Helping Paws Rescue is a non-profit and no-kill organization that boards and rehabilitated pets keeping them safe and cheerful until they find their forever home. The organization strives to rescue unwanted and neglected pets and train them to be the best pet their future home could ask for.
“Helping Paws Rescue’s commitment for the animals is that for the rest of their lives they will be taken care of,” said Tamela Boyd, an obedience trainer for 10 years at Pawtropolis. “We microchip the animal under the Pawtropolis name and number; if they are ever lost or found in a shelter we can bring them back here and take care of them until we find them another home.”
Helping Paws Rescue started in 2001 by the owners of Pawtropolis, Amanda and John Crook. The organization is based out of Pawtropolis, which is a daycare and boarding facility in Athens, Georgia. Helping Paws Rescue helps unwelcome and mistreated pets find a home after they are rescued and rehabilitated. Clients can also come to Pawtropolis to learn how to sustain the learned behavior and continue the training of the pet. There are two Pawtropolis locations in Athens; one is on the east side off of Broad Street, while the new location is on the east side, off of Olympic Drive.
Many of the animals brought to the organization are not from the public; some are rescued from shelters on their last day of life. Helping Paws Rescue recuses dogs from shelters in Athens-Clarke County, Walton County, Barrow County, Monroe and Oglethorpe County. Sometimes other rescue organizations work with Helping Paws Rescue if they have a special case. Shelly Wallace and her roommate found Nova, a young blue pit bull puppy that suffered from mange at Unwanted Pets of NYC. Unwanted Pets of NYC partnered with Helping Paws Rescue to help her.
“When we found out Nova would be pulled by Unwanted Pets of NYC if they could find a place for her to live, we knew that Helping Paws Rescue would be the best rescue to partner with them and give her a place to stay until she was healthy enough to come to our house,” said Wallace, who has since been adopted.
One doesn’t have to adopt or foster an animal to aide Helping Paws Rescue. An individual can come to Pawtropolis and fill out a volunteer application. The volunteer opportunities include fieldtrips, exercise and socialization. Monetary donations and general donations, including toys, treats, beds and anything else animals would enjoy, are also accepted.
“We have had several fundraisers including a doggie cookie bake sale, homemade dog toys, and a dog wash to raise money for our heartworm positive dogs,” says Tara Helwing, an assistant manager of Pawtropolis, who helps organize Helping Paws Rescue’s sponsorships, volunteers and donations “We also have a jar for donations that clients donate small amounts to on a daily basis.”
If an individuals donates $50, their name will be on the website and any adoption flyers as a pet sponsor. If an individual wants to fully sponsor an animal they see at animal control, they can fully financially sponsor the animal, even if they are not adopting individuals can help.
“The biggest donation is one of time,” said Helwig. “The staff here act as the foster homes for the dogs of Helping Paws Rescue and donate their time to work on basic obedience training, house training and other basic manners, socializing the dogs, attending the home visit, fundraising and more. We couldn't do what we do without their labor of love.”
Helwig is currently fostering the Jack Russell/ Chihuahua mix, Winnie. She has begun teaching Winnie basic obedience training as well as a few tricks. Pawtropolis and Helping Paws Rescue are very particular with fostering the animals and training them to be well-behaved obedient family pets. “Helping Paws is very picky about where we place our foster [animals],” said Kacie Sienbenlist is an animal caretaker at Pawtropolis. “I think of fostering as not only saving a dog's life, but also preparing them to be the perfect dog for their perfect family. Pawtropolis fosters are trained from day one to know basic obedience and manners.”
The organization will always temperament test the dog, give the dog basic training and pay for anything the foster parent needs for the animal. The foster parent’s task is to give the animal the environment and attention it needs to be the best dog someone could adopt.
When animals are brought into Helping Paws Rescue they are put into a quiet room with a kennel where they are able to adjust to their new environment and the staff members are able to see how the animal acts. When Nova was introduced to Helping Paws Rescue she stayed in this room. “Helping Paws let Nova live in their quite room after she was taken out of the shelter so that her immune system could build up before she came to stay with us and their employees helped a lot with her meals and medicine,” said Wallace.
“Helping Paws is different because dogs that foster get to live in a home with their foster parent, but they can play at Pawtropolis daycare with other dogs,” said Wallace
The adoption procedure at Helping Paws Rescue involved in a crucial five step process. The first step is to meet and interact with the animals. After you have decided which animal you are interested in, the second step is to full out an adoption application. The adoption committee will look over the application and if they have any questions they will contact the applicant. Step four is if the applicant is approved the animal is brought to an in-home visit to make sure the animal is a good match with the family, possible other pets in the house and the environment. Within 24 hours of the home visit, the final step is to notify the applicant if they were approved to adopt the animal or not.
This year, seventeen dogs and two cats have been adopted from the organization. Helping Paws Rescue brought in nine dogs and three rescued cats. Alisha Cromwell, a history professor at the University of Georgia recently adopted her tiny calico cat from Helping Paws Rescue. Cromwell was picking her dog up from doggy daycare when she saw Itsy Bitsy through the glass in Kitty City. She did not know at the time Pawtropolis has animals for adoption, but this cat caught her eye.
“My daughter and husband wanted a cat, they changed the name from Itsy Bitsy to Posey Metallicat from John Posey, their favorite baseball player from the San Francisco Giants, and their favorite band. We have adopted multiple animals from shelters; we were shocked at the rigid adoption policies at first, but understood they wanted to find the animals a good home instead of [the animals] going back to the pounds,” says Cromwell.
For the staff members at Pawtropolis helping with Helping Paws Rescue isn’t just about coming to work and leaving, it is about having a life in your hands that you are taking control and making a change in their life and hopefully someone else’s life. “At first, I just thought it would be cool to have a free dog. Fostering is so much more than that, though,” said Seinbenlist. “Sophia is my second foster, and I know for a fact that with me and Helping Paws, she has her best chance at finding her perfect forever home. I actually adopted my first foster dog, a pug-min pin I named Jeffrey. He is one of the best decisions of my life, and I can't imagine him being anywhere but with me.”