By Marina Anderson
Signal Contributing Writer
“We got a runner!”
And the chase is on at the Shelter Hope Pet Shop, with rescue workers and visitors scrambling after Marley, an adorable black poodle who managed to hike his way over a barricade and out the front entry.
“Stop that dog!” shouts someone from the shopping mall corridor.
There’s now a line of people in front of the escalator blocking Marley from scampering downstairs where he’s scooped up in the arms of one of the rescue volunteers.
That was within the first few minutes of my interview with Dani Caouette, who heads up Shelter Hope at the Westfield Valencia Town Center mall.
It’s a lot for any pet to take in emotionally, when they’ve been lost or abandoned, then saved from being euthanized and transported to another strange location and people.
Sometimes, the animal’s “fight or flight” reflex takes over.
Marley’s has a happy ending though — he was adopted that day.
Once stepping inside the Shelter Hope storefront, there are lots of “oooh” and “awww” moments from visitors, along with barking dogs and cats meowing vying for attention.
All of the animals will tug at your heartstrings, like Linus (pictured).
Shelter Hope staff fretted that Linus might have been hit by a car and left untreated before he was rescued, but he doesn’t his limp slow him down. This affectionate pooch is faster than some of his neighbors, and will be your best friend if you give him a chance.
It’s a 24-7 endeavor to keep Shelter Hope running, and staying in one place has been a challenge, Caouette said.
They’ve had to move a few times to different locations within the mall due to increased retail situations, forcing the store to set up shop all over again with extra expenses. (Its current location calls for visitors to park at the Canyon entrance of the mall, off Citrus Street, and head to the second floor.)
Caouette mentioned they don’t have an “official” front door to open/shut when customers enter or leave the store — just a drop-down gate to close at the end of the day. Because cost is a daily concern and every penny goes to rescue, feeding, sheltering, utilities, rent and taking care of the animals’ other needs, Caouette is hoping someone will volunteer their time and/or supplies to build a temporary (sliding) door or fence of sorts for the entry. Monetary and pet supply donations are always welcome, such as kitty litter, towels, beds and fleece blankets.
One of the things that sets Shelter Hope apart is its “return guarantee.” If, after adoption, it doesn’t work out, the shelter will take the pet back.
There’s also an application process and a thorough home check before any adoption is final.
You can also “foster-only” or take advantage of the “foster-to-adopt” option — which is when someone fosters an animal to see if the fit is right for adoption. This helps to ensure less emotional trauma for the pet and that they’ve found their “fur-ever” home.
Shelter Hope also offers several additional perks for its adopters. All adopters get a free photo taken on “the throne” with their new pet, as well as a comprehensive package. For dogs, that includes spay/neuter, microchip, in-home training, all their vaccines, leash, collar, food toys, vet visit and grooming. And for cats, the package includes spay/neuter, vaccines, litter box and litter, toys, food and vet visit. For any new “parent,” Santa Clarita School Of Performing Arts will donate 3 free classes of your choice at the school. If you adopt a kitten, SCSOPA is donating a month of twice-weekly classes.
Shelter Hope also offers not only student school credit for volunteered hours, but there are ongoing animal educational classes, workshops and weekly orientation training for fosters and new adoptees.
Once a month, you and your family can attend “Kid’s Night Out,” where children (ages pre-school on up) are taught pet safety and care, participate in games, crafts and other fun activities.
In the hub of the store, you’ll find a “read-to-the-pets” area to choose a book and read to the dogs and cats up close and personal. This provides an interactive, bonding experience and atmosphere for the public and potential adopters and pets to get to know each other better. To make your upcoming holiday shopping a breeze, you’ll also find unique pet merchandise like custom rhinestone collars in their retail section.
For more information about the shelter and its animals available for adoption, visit www.ShelterHopePetShop.org. There are also Shelter Hope locations in Thousand Oaks and Sacramento.