May 4, 2010 by Jenn Steinhardt
He’s here! He’s here! He’s herrrrrrrrree! Oh boyyyy! Gotta be cute, wag my nubby, curl and bend my torso, head down, eyes looking up. He’s herrree!!
Bobby Ingram arrives at 407 West Shore Trail, after months of being gone. Since graduating from the College of New Jersey, Bobby has been living in Franklin, New Jersey, with two old friends. Although, he missed Sasha (the family dog) greatly, he also didn’t want his mom to be left alone with an empty nest of children and no dog, therefore Sasha stayed on West Shore, while Bobby moved out.
The lease to his apartment was up and Bobby decided to move back home for a little while. As soon as the car pulled into the driveway, Sasha was already at the living room window – panting, waiting anxiously. She greeted her long-missed master when he pulled open the wooden door.
He’s here! Oh Boyy! You can hear the wheels turning in the Staffordshire bull terrier/ Boxer/ Rhodesian ridgeback mix’s head. She’s processing that there’s new company and that her best friend has arrived. Her white paws lift up and down with excitement.
“Grrr!” Bobby growls at his seizing dog. Immediately, Sasha puts her head on the ground and her shortened tail in the air. She growls and barks, her feet are still unable to stay still like the floor is on fire. A few seconds later, Bobby is on the couch with Sasha’s big brown head on his lap. Her eyes, outlined in a shade of black, look up and her face is now aged with a soft shade of white. A goofy smile spreads from floppy ear to floppy ear. She’s immediately transformed from a wild, eight-ish year-old puppy into a lazy, eight-ish year-old cuddle bug/ moose.
The Ingram family adopted Sasha, when Bobby was a senior in high school. Mike Budnik, his cousin, was visiting with his Boxer. So naturally, one puppy inspired another person to get a puppy. For quite some time, Bobby had been longing for a Staffordshire, so he and his family made a trip to Noah’s Ark (a local shelter). They noticed two potentials.
“It was a blob…it didn’t move!” Bobby explains. Although the adorable mush-of-a-dog was described by him as a “comma dog,” it was the choice that Patty Ingram, his mother, was more willing to make. Mrs. Ingram laughs at her son’s claims. She tries to defend herself, knowing what she knows now (that Sasha couldn’t even hurt a fly), but back then, she was really concerned about the other adoptable choice.
The other option was a jumpy, face-liking, one-year-old Staffordshire mix. “Sasha was being Sasha,” Bobby said. It took awhile for him to convince his mother that the puppy wasn’t violent. In fact, “It took us awhile to convince her to get any dog.” Eventually, however, Mrs. Ingram caved in and the family began to fill out the paper work.
Like many other shelter dogs, Sasha had been placed in a shelter by no fault of her own. Nearly 8 million companion animals are placed in shelters each year. Four million are adopted, but there are still three million euthanized in a year. A super-hero team joined forces in September to stop this problem.
After intensive research, the team believed that prospective pet owners were afraid to adopt from shelters because they didn’t know what to expect from a shelter, and thought “shelter pets are ‘damaged goods’ and did something wrong to wind up in the shelter.”
“To eliminate the stereotype that there’s something wrong with shelter pets and to make shelters the first choice and desired way for acquiring a companion animal, ultimately increasing the rate of animals adopted from shelters.”
The name of the campaign? The Shelter Pet Project.
Each partner on the team contributes something different, making it a true dream team. The Humane Society utilizes their expertise and knowledge with animal advocacy, while the Ad Council and DRAFTFCB work with creating material and getting promotional spots. According to the Shelter Pet Project, this is the first time the Ad Council (the same organization that put together campaigns like Smokey the Bear and Rosie the Riveter) has undertaken an animal advocacy campaign. DRAFTFCB, a successful advertising company with offices all over the world, has worked with companies like Taco Bell, Miller Lite, UNICEF, Prismacolor, and more. Now DRAFTFCB is volunteering to assist in the Shelter Pet Project.
The advertisements consist of adorable dogs and cats. They choose the kind of companion pets the public would recognize and love. One public service announcement starts out with a guy in a black shirt, flannel vest, and tan hat as he jumps out of his rugged van in the middle of nowhere. He throws a tennis ball, and a scruffy, beige puppy runs out to fetch it. “Come on Randy!” The dog says in a deep voice, dropping the electric green ball from his mouth. The pet owner drives off as soon as he can. “Animal shelter here I come! And no,” the dog says, “I’m not emotionally damaged. That’s a stereotype. I just belong to a total loser. I’m a good dog! So if you want a pet, adopt! And if you see Randy, tell him he dropped his wallet.” As the dog speaks his eyebrows move, creating more personality. At the end of his dialogue, he goes to shake the wallet. A big screen comes up with information on the Shelter Pet Project.
Another commercial is of a pet owner being arrested for an investment fraud. The little terrier sits at the steps. His first line is “I guess we’re not taking that trip to Aspen.” The terrier continues to explain how his owner is going to jail and he’s going to a shelter. He casually explains how the two destinations are different – a shelter is for good dogs who want to be adopted, jails are for criminals. Just as the little guy is claiming he’s not a criminal, an officer picks him up, the terrier shouts “Okay! I stole a cheeseburger once! I’m a dog!” Again the action closes with a screen with more information.
While the HSUS, Ad Council, and DRAFTFCB contribute with the knowledge and creative outlets, the Maddie’s Fund donates a considerable amount of money in grants. A pet-loving family created Maddie’s Fund after adopting a Miniature Schnauzer. The new addition to the family inspired them to begin a foundation dedicated towards funding the animal welfare cause. In the 2007-2008 fiscal year, the fund donated $14.5 million in grants in over 40 states. Now, in the 2009-2010 fiscal year, Maddie’s Fund is sponsoring the Shelter Pet Project.
With this monster partnership among organizations, the Shelter Pet Project campaign can be found on each of the partner’s websites, youtube, and Theshelterpetproject.org. On the main website they provide features like an adopt-o-gram (where you can send or receive custom messages), pet personals (where you can take a quick survey to find the perfect pet for you through Petfinder.com), and the adopter network (where website visitors can browse or post pet-related questions). The website also allows visitors to search for local shelters and find out more about the campaign.
“I’d personally rather adopt than buy a cat. They are just as cute and cuddly, but sometimes shelters are forced to put animals down, who don’t get adopted. It’s sad!” a pet owner says. Catherine McGurrin has been raising strays and adopted kittens since she was a little girl. Now that she has a place of her own, she’s beginning the process of adoption for a cat that’s truly her baby. In her support of adoption she continues to explain how she uses Petfinder.com (the same tool the Shelter Pet Project uses in their campaign). Catherine says, “You can select animal, breed, size etc. So even if you don’t want a ‘tabby’ or ‘mutt’ you can search by breed.”
The Petfinder.com Foundation strives to find strays and adoptees a loving home. “For every homeless pet that isn’t euthanized, we know our work is making a difference,” the foundation’s president says. According to Shelterpro.com, “Petfinder.com is the oldest and largest on-line database of pets for adoption.” ShelterPro.com also suggests Pets911.com and AdoptAPet.com for adoption searches.
“It’s just cruel to buy when someone else is legit dying to be adopted,” Catherine says sternly. Her bubbly personality fell flat as the words left her mouth.
At least 3 million cats and dogs are wagging their tails, pouting their faces, and waiting for someone to come adopt them. They need someone to not just give them a good home, but to save them from being euthanized.
“Sasha is one of the most well-behaved and sweet dogs I have ever met,” Sara Prickett, Bobby’s friend, says with a smile. Sasha greets visitors with that goofy grin, and a pet-me-please attitude. There’s not much more a pet owner could ask from a dog like that, and yet she was placed in a shelter? This beautiful mix may have found a home, but there’s over 4,000 shelters in the United States, according to the HSUS, and there’s over 3 million Sasha’s that still need a home.
John Snyder, from the HSUS, says in a Behind the Scenes documentary on the project, “Just a small increase of adoptions in this country could have a dramatic impact on the number of animals that pass through our shelters each year.” See what you can do at http://www.theshelterpetproject.com.
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