After a brief sabbatical, Paws of Tomorrow, an area animal-rescue organization, is back in business, looking to help the local rescue-dog population find forever homes.
According to its website, Paws’ goal is “to rescue, provide sanctuary and rehome abandoned, stray and neglected animals within our local area.”
“We are a foster-based organization,” explained April Fels, who founded the 501(c)(3) nonprofit. “All of our dogs go into foster homes. Basically, if someone is wanting to surrender an animal, they can call us or they can go on our website and fill out an owner surrender form. Then we contact them and try to figure out what would be the best foster situation for that dog, and then we move them into foster care. If it’s a stray, we try to help with those also.”
Paws of Tomorrow helps foster and adopt out strays, as well as dogs in area shelters.
“The shelters are so overpopulated that we are then able to help them,” Fels said. “We try not to pull the dogs that are the super-adoptable dogs. You can go to the shelter and anyone is going to adopt the cute fluffy little dog. We go in and take the dog that might be the snappy Chihuahua, or the dog that might need medical care, or the senior dog that’s never going to get adopted in a shelter.
“We go in and take the dogs that are a little bit more difficult, and then we turn them into the super-adoptable dogs. So, whether it’s they need some training or some vet care or some love, we try to be to people that take those dogs that would be unadoptable in a shelter and make them super-adoptable and appealing.”
In fact, Fels is so good at rescuing the more difficult dogs that she has been dubbed “the Chihuahua whisper.”
“Because if anyone gets an aggressive Chihuahua at the shelter, they call me. I got three this week, and within two days they’re just as sweet as can be. They were just super-scared. You put a Chihuahua in a shelter, and they’re just scared to death.”
Paws of Tomorrow was founded in 2008 by Fels, who had previously worked in rescue.
“I started learning about gas-chamber euthanasia and realized that down South they still use gas chambers. If you’ve ever been to one of those shelters or seen the videos, it’s just horrible. At that point, I felt I couldn’t just walk away — I had to do something.
“You can’t change the laws, so the only thing I could do was try to save some animals,” explained Fels. “We used to take a lot of dogs from down South, but now, obviously, Delaware is having enough problems with their animal control... So we’re trying to help the majority of animals from here.”
Between its inception and 2012, Paws of Tomorrow rescued 2,373 dogs; however, after holding a local adoption event, a pregnant Fels had her water break prematurely. She was placed on bedrest in Johns Hopkins Hospital at 20 weeks pregnant, for five weeks before her son was born. He then remained in the NICU for six months.
“So the rescue got put on hold for a while,” she said.
“I’m excited to be back… I think once you start rescuing, rescue is in your blood. You have to love rescue to keep doing it, because it’s very difficult to do. It’s the hardest job you’ll ever love, besides parenting,” she said with a laugh.
Although previously the organization had had as many as 80 dogs being fostered at one time, Fels said she hopes to keep the number around 20 this time around.
“We are always, always looking for volunteers and most definitely fosters,” she said. “Fostering is super-difficult. People are afraid to foster because they’re afraid they’ll never be able to give them up, and that happens a lot.”
Fels is also working on putting together a foster-to-adopt program for volunteer fosterers and potential adoptive owners.
“It’s a win-win for everybody. We are able to save a dog, but at the same time you can foster that dog for a period of time before you have to decide whether or not you want to adopt it. That way, you don’t have to bring a dog blindly into your home to adopt; you can foster it first to see if it fits your home well.”
She added that Paws is always looking for willing volunteers who don’t necessarily want to foster.
“Even if it’s just to help take dogs to the vet, or helping hold animals at adoptions, or helping plan fundraisers — there are lots of ways to volunteer. We have a great group of volunteers,” she said. “We’re all volunteers. None of us are paid. We all do this just to help the animals.”
Earlier this month, Paws of Tomorrow opened up office space at Wags to Riches Pet Grooming in Selbyville. Community members will be able to meet their fosters there, by appointment only, learn more about the nonprofit and make donations.
Fels, who owns a number of area businesses with her husband, including Summer Salts Café, said she has experience organizing fundraisers through her work at the restaurant and hopes to plan similar events to raise funds for Paws of Tomorrow.
“I’m trying to figure out away, even though we’re nonprofit, that we can give back to the community. One of the things I’m trying to set up is a food pantry and the discount vaccine clinic,” she added.
“Basically, if someone is struggling to buy food for their animal, they can contact us, and we would be able to provide food for their animal so they don’t have to give them up. We would also help with vaccines. We’re hoping to every so often set up a clinic, say, where the first 50 people there we would help with low-cost vaccines.”
For now, Fels said, Paws of Tomorrow is working off of donations provided by the community, for which she is thankful. She said donations are welcome in a variety of manners, including monetary and goods.
“Donations are super-helpful,” she said. “All of our animals go to the Berlin Animal Hospital. If someone wants to donate directly to our vet care, they can call Berlin to do that as well.”
Fels said she is excited that Paws of Tomorrow is back in action and helping local dogs find the perfect home.
“It’s so rewarding. That’s why we keep doing what we do.”
For more information about Paws of Tomorrow, visit www.pawsoftomorrow.dog or www.facebook.com/pawsoftomorrow, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations may be mailed to P.O. Box 801, Ocean View, DE 19970. Wags to Riches is located at 36656 Lighthouse Road in Selbyville.