The dog facility is BUILT! I would say 'done' - but there are a few finishing touches needed (permanent electrical fixtures, a large outdoor run, and some other things I can't remember off the top of my head). But it is BUILT and functional and we have already had 2 dogs adopted out of it!
Smiley's Rescues had our Grand Opening for the new dog facility on June 17th!
Thank you to everyone who donated and volunteered throughout the whole process to make this possible!!
I am SO incredibly impressed, grateful, exited, you-name-it, that in a 9-month span, Smiley's Rescues went from realizing that the Fertile area desperately needed more rescue space for dogs, to having that space built and functioning!!
Sid is, of course, the driving force behind everything that happens at Smiley's. Add to that Jordan's love of animals and skills, and for the second time in 12 months they are opening a new building to rescue animals. All for about one fourth of the capital that you or I would need to have the same building built.
In terms of the the current building getting BUILT - it was Jordan who put in all the hours of hard work: from prepping the site and framing the building in the cold with snow still on the ground, to putting up interior steel and outdoor kennels when it was 90+ degrees and humid. Jordan volunteering his time and skills was the ONLY way this building got done when it did, he saved the rescue at least $30,000 in cost by doing the work on a volunteer basis. Wow.
I wanted to write about a few of the impressions I had of the new space at our Grand Opening event - that day was the first time I had seen it occupied by cats and dogs!
Eight hundred square feet doesn't sound like a ton of space. But this TRIPLES the amount of space Smiley's had previously. It is REALLY EXCITING how many more animals we will be able to help now.
This new building was first and foremost a dog facility - and it serves that purpose well, but because of Jordan's donation of labor and our donors' contributions, Smiley's Rescues was able to include a space for cats in the new building. This means we can provide the cats at the rescue with a larger community room (north half of new building) and a better quaratine space (the former cat building, 400 square feet, finished August 2022).
The new building is split in half - the south half houses 4 dog kennels and the north half is the community cat room for avialble cats. The dog portion of the building has indoor kennels with free access to each dog's outdoor area. Seeing the dogs in this space was so wonderful! Knowing some of the situations the dogs had recently come from, and seeing them being able to access fresh air at any time - it was simply wonderful.
The day of the Grand Opening the dogs were a little excitable with people coming and going and various dogs showing up to get microchiped. But they were still HAPPY dogs in their space at Smiley's. This made a huge impression on me - how low each of the dogs' stress levels seemed. I am no expert, and have only volunteered with dogs in various shelters sporadically over the years, but I anticipated the dogs to be more stressed than they were.
Ok - a little bit of a tangent here. Since the Grand Opening and seeing how calm the dogs were in their space, I have been thinking about that a LOT. Again, I am about the furthest thing from a dog expert there is - but even I could see how calm these 4 different dogs were for being in a situation that was still really new to them and seemed potentially pretty stressful.
Obviously it was ON PURPOSE that Sid and Jordan designed the dog facility to include free access to outdoor space knowing how that can relieve stress in dogs - but to SEE it in person was great. But just that outdoor space does not explain all of it at all - in fact a few days after the grand opening I happened to have 3 of the dogs crated in my garage for a couple of hours (while they waited to be picked up after vet appointments). In my opinion, they were all incredibly calm for being in a brand new place. In a couple hours with 3 dogs I heard maybe 6 barks total. They lay down and relaxed while Sid was gone. And it was when Sid came back to pick them up that it dawned on me - that they see Sid as their pack leader/mom/whatever you call it. They LIT UP when they saw her. Even though they had only been with her a short time she spends so much time working with them that they feel secure and know they belong. It was heart-warming to see. The personal attention Sid and her family can give to those dogs because they only have a few at a time makes a REAL difference in their behavior.
For the last part of this tangent I will just say that the regular excercise the dogs get at Smiley's helps their behavior so much, too. (If you can help with dog walking in the morning or evening - please reach out us!)
Sid's working with the dogs and their excercise routine aren't exactly part of the new building - but I really wanted to share how the building PLUS the practices Sid has in place for the dogs help them to have reduced stress levels during their time of transition. They will therefore be better behaved and the adoption and transition to a new home will go more smoothly. I am so proud of Sid for having this exact vision for saving dogs, and then the tenacity to see it through to implementation.
Back to the building itself - the north half is the cat community room (which is completely separate from the dog area - and has a separate entrance). What struck me the most about this space was - like with the dogs - how calm and happy the cats seemed to be. I know cats, and these were - with a couple of exceptions - verrrrrrry relaxed cats. The cat community room has 4 huge cat trees, and a number of smaller cat trees, beds, and tents - which provides plenty of space for each kitty to find a spot to snooze but also leaves enough room for them to zoom around and burn off energy.
There were a couple of exceptions to the mostly relaxed group of cats. At the time of the Grand Opening there were 2 kitties that really didn't want to come out of the little nooks they had found to curl up in. And that is understadable - there were lots of new people in and out to visit the cats during the Grand Opening, AND all the cats had just moved to this new space less than 48 hrs previously. But both of these kitties that were not totally relaxed? They weren't terrified either. They came out to get pets and food during quieter times. They didn't shy away from getting pets, or slink low out of fear, or jump at noises, or growl, or hiss, or swat at other kitties. Wait. I take that back. Leonard did hiss at Whiskey because Leonard does not like kittens at all, and Whiskey the kitten needed reminding! But outside of that, even these shyer kitties were doing just fine.
So, just like with the dogs, I was so struck by how calm and happy the cats were in their space. Sid spends A LOT of time socializing the cats and testing that they will get along with each other before they are ever left unsupervised together. She also has her own dogs, and Lillian of course, and they spend time with the cats every day. It is easy to see in their behavior that this habituates the cats to dogs and kids and makes the transition to their forever home much smoother. Just like with the dogs, the new space was neccessary, but the building is just a part of it - it is the holistic approach Smiley's takes to animal behavior that allows the animals to be at ease while in our care and have an easier transition to their forever home.
Last tangent, I swear: for the kitties who really are scared and uneasy in the community cat room - we work really hard to get them into a foster home ASAP. In every case so far, once the shy cat has been placed in a foster home they become much more comfortable.
Hmmm, so I meant to tell you about more the new building itself in this blog post, but instead I had to tell you about how well the animals in it are doing - which is because of how those animals are cared for while they are at Smiley's. And really that is all that matters: that the animals are safe and as comfortable as possible while at the rescue.
Back to the Building:
I will write another post and add lots of photos of the actual building because we'll report on a final cost breakdown. But it was a lot more interesting for me to write about the animals rather than the insulation today! Until then, if you would really like to know more about the building itself, please consider stopping by when open hours start on Sunday afternoons in a couple of weeks here! Or consider volunteering!
The last thing I will say about the building for now is - it was built as economically as possible while still keeping it safe and enriching for the animals. I find it hugely inspiring to see the work that Smiley's Rescues (and by that I mean Sid!) can do with a limited budget. Our supporters generously donated for the purchase of materials, and it was by the sheer will of Sid and Jordan that those materials came together to house the cats and dogs as they do now.
Again - THANK YOU - to everyone who makes the work that Smiley's does possible (I probably will forget people for sure, thank you to those people too!!!):
Sid and Jordan and Lillian - the heart and soul of Smiley's.
Our Board - a committed and hardworking group who help us move forward.
Our Volunteers and Donors and Supporters - even saving ONE animal requires an investment of time, money, and logistical support. We couldn't do it without you.
Our Veterinarians who give our animals the best care we could ask for.
Our Partners from local - and further! - shelters/rescues we pair with to share information, skills, and supplies to work towards the best outcome for every animal.
Community Members - individuals and businesses - who supported this event and help get the word out about the work that we do.