Our Pal’s Place:
From Pets to Accessories, Re-Homing is Their Specialty
In 1982, my 2 year-old daughter, Misty, was so terrified of dogs that even when we were riding down the street and she saw one, she went into hysterics. Since she had never been bitten, or had any other traumatic experience, her dad and I decided we needed to do something about it. One day, I dropped the both girls off at their grandmothers, and I snuck away to the pound. I was looking for a small, calm, older (not a puppy) dog. I found the perfect one. She was a 3-year-old white springer spaniel that we named Lady. Misty had no idea the dog was in the backyard until the next day when I let Lady into the house. Misty stood back and watched as I petted and played with Lady for just a few minutes. Each time the dog came into the house, she stayed longer and longer. At first, Misty would sit in my lap and cling to me while I petted Lady. Then, little by little, Misty got braver, and finally began playing with her. Within a few days, Misty and Lady were best friends. She has been a dog lover ever since.
In 1982, the only option for adopting a dog was the county pound, which was located next to the county dump. A lot has changed since then. They are no longer called pounds, but animal shelters. Most of them now attempt to be no-kill. But, most importantly, there are many non-profit organizations that rescue from puppy mills and kill shelters. One such organization is Our Pal’s Place located on Canton Road in Marietta. Their mission statement is to bring about a time when all animals are treated with kindness and compassion.
Gi Gi Graves and her husband had been long term supporters of an organization in Utah and took a trip out to tour the facility. Upon returning, they were discussing how much good this organization did for the animals, but noticed that it was not run as a professional business. Added to this trip was the fact that Gi Gi went from working for a privately held firm to being part on a huge, publicly-traded international firm. As she grew more and more frustrated with this structure, and the more and more she and her husband discussed the business plan of a rescue organization, they decided in 2003 to begin implementing this plan into their own non-profit organization for dogs. Together with two friends, they opened the doors to Our Pal’s Place in 2004. In 2005, they purchased the facility at 4508 Canton Road in Marietta.
The organization is run completely by volunteers who go to the kill shelters and evaluate the animals for intake There are selected volunteers who take the adopted animal to their new home for their “meet & greet.” They also take shifts to come to the facility to feed and walk the animals. Even though the facility is only open Saturday and Sunday from one to five pm, the animals still need care 365 days a year.
Upon the intake evaluation, the animals higher on the euthanize list are evaluated for intake. Most are sick and unfit for adoption, so O.P.P. will take them out of the shelter, get them vet care, and then begin the process of socialization for adoption. Unfortunately, some dogs, for one reason or another cannot be saved. Although their primary visits are to the county shelters located here in North Georgia, since they are partners with the National Humane Society, they will travel in times of need. One group of volunteers went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and participated in the search and rescue, then brought several dogs and cats back to Atlanta to be re-homed.
Another huge part of Our Pal’s Place is education. Kendra is the Director of Education, and she oversees several ongoing projects there. Once a month, O.P.P. goes into a local elementary school and works with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders teaching them the proper way to approach a strange dog and learning the body language and nonverbal communication between animal and human. They are also taught, age-appropriately, the importance of spaying and neutering. Summer camp is offered in June and July, which is a more hands on and interactive part of the education. O.P.P. also offers training classes with the humans and the new member of their family to ensure a more seamless integration.
Gussie came to summer camp at the age of 14 and then became a volunteer. As she grew up, she became an intern and a counselor at the camp. She is now attending college and plans to become a vet. She loves working with the campers, teaching them what they don’t know regarding being responsible pet humans, and educating them on the problems that so many of these animals face before being rescued. It was her time with Our Pal’s Place that led her decision to go to veterinary school, and she plans to stay highly active with O.P.P. after graduation.
One very impressive aspect of this organization is the realization that customer service is of the utmost importance. They strive daily to ensure the adoption process is easier and more enjoyable than some shelters make it. The philosophy is, if we as an industry make it too difficult to adopt, then customers will go to the mall stores to purchase their dogs. This is not to say that a person just comes in and pays a fee and leaves with their dog. O.P.P. strives to make sure it is a good dog-human fit and asks multiple questions to assist with the procedure. Some dogs need a house with a yard, or to be the only animal in the family, and some do not take to children readily. These things need to be considered before the adoption is finalized. O.P.P. even offers a trial period of one week. However, if the dog does not acclimate for whatever reason, or there are other unforeseen issues, O.P.P. will gladly reverse the adoption. It is the general welfare of the adoptee and the adopter that this organization is mainly concerned with.
One successful adoption is that of Kim Haines-Korn and her family. One of her colleagues was a “tuck-in” volunteer and spoke to the Haines-Korn’s about their program. Their daughter went to the summer camp then decided she also wanted to volunteer, eventually becoming part of the team that would get to know the dog’s personalities and matching them to their new prospective families. When Darby, a ten-year-old border collie, came into the organization, she was immediately adopted by the Haines-Korn’s and has been a happy member of the family for the past 6 years.
Our Pal’s Place is a non-profit organization, but they have a for-profit business that helps with the support of O.P.P. It is an upscale thrift store located 3.5 miles away at 2568 Canton Road in Marietta called Re-Home Super Store. If you are looking to furnish or accessorize your home, you can find great items at equally great prices, and much of the proceeds go to help dogs that have heartworms. Their store manager is Tina, a beautiful white English Bulldog who was overbred, and is now able to lay in the sunshine filtering in through the all glass front of the building and be petted and adored by everyone who walks into the store.
There are many wonderful rescue organizations in the world. All of them are worthy of volunteers and support. However, with its philosophy of rescuing high euthanasia-risk animals from the county shelters, of customer service to make the adoption process easier, and emphasis on education should clearly make Our Pal’s Place one of the top rescue organizations in the Atlanta area. As Gi Gi stated so eloquently, “We can’t save every animal, but education is the first step in the next generation being an even bigger solution to the problem.”