Life is Labs was recently voted the winner of our Acts of Kindness Photo Contest! BestBullySticks was super excited to hear back from Life Is Labs and learn about all the great work they’ve done. A non-profit rescue organization dedicated to providing dogs with a loving home, Life is Labs fosters animals for adoption, organizes rescue volunteers and spreads awareness in the community. Find out more about Life is Labs below in this week’s BestBullySticks Rescue Spotlight!
Over 17 years ago, my late husband and I started a boarding and training facility at our home. We love all dogs and always kept 4-6 dogs needing homes at our facility. We would provide them care, train them and then place them with loving families. In 2007, my husband passed away after four long years of veterinary school and not even a year of practicing veterinary medicine. It was heartbreaking on every level. Our dream was to open a full-service campus for people and their pets, a place where people could go and get all the help they needed with their pets, enjoy all kinds of activities related to their pets and become part of a community of pet lovers. Sadly, that dream was placed on hold and I wondered if it would ever happen as he was gone and the economy had taken a nosedive.
I also realized that the free vet care our adoptable dogs received was no longer available. And when I did the math, I found we were spending $400-600 a month caring for our homeless dogs. In 2009, we started asking clients if they were interested in sponsoring the animals in our care. And they were. I was so excited that we had some help and would be able to continue taking in homeless dogs. Moreover, I had to let go of a portion of our business that took me away from home too often, travelling to competitions with retrievers almost every weekend for at least half the year. I had some spare time and decided it was time to focus on homeless dogs and start a formal organization.
Life is labs was simply a t-shirt company we started to help raise money for our handful of adoptable dogs. When its Facebook page grew to over 7,000 fans in a short period of time, we realized that we could garner support to save more dogs. We also knew that we were running out of space at our current facility. Over the last two and a half years, we have managed to raise money, use personal money and got support from friends and family to purchase 24 acres to build a new facility. This will be the facility my late husband and I dreamed of… It’s still a ways off in the future, but we are excited about the opportunities it will open up for our rescue mission.
What’s different about your rescue?
The most unique thing about our rescue is that it benefits from our training and behavior background. All of our adoptable dogs are housed with us where we work with them on everything from manners and obedience, to anxiety and fearfulness. The nature of our facility – which is based at our home — brings out the best in our rescue dogs and affords them every opportunity to get everything they need, including exercise, attention, high quality nutrition, excellent vet care, rehabilitation, training and general care. All of our healthy, adoptable dogs are FULLY trained prior to adoption. Adopters participate in the training, during private lessons, over the course of 3-4 weeks before taking their new dog home. My favorite part about this program is that, like clockwork, the third time the family comes to visit, their new dog recognizes them and is ready to follow them home. This bonding prior to adoption allows a very smooth transition into the new home. The dog already knows its new family and the family knows the dog. It has been very successful so far and if there are any hiccups, we provide 24/7 care and lifetime private lessons to address any issues that may pop up.
The best part about this training is that it is an off-leash training program. It’s not just a traditional “training class”. When our dogs go home, they can be off-leash to enjoy life with their owners outside a fence and during any activity where it’s safe to be offleash – think biking, hiking, camping, trips to the beach, walks at the lake, hanging out at the farm. The recall we teach is so reliable that owners can feel confident and have peace of mind that their dogs won’t run off and that they can TOGETHER truly enjoy the things that people and pets should be able to enjoy.
The other difference I would say is our hospice program. We will provide end of life care to shelter dogs in need of rescue during their twilight. We aren’t afraid to take the decrepit, old, smelly, infected, immobile senior dogs. It’s one of our favorite things to do. While it does mean that we deal with death much more often than we would like to, it’s such a blessing to have the experience, time and space to give these poor souls some dignity at the end of their days. Most of the time, you can see 3-6 senior dogs hobbling around here with us. We administer IV fluids, clean up messes, dose mediation, provide special food and do whatever we need to until they are ready to go to the bridge. It can be very painful, but it’s such a blessing and they bring us just as much joy as any puppy or younger dog.
And one more thing… Although we are Life is “LABS”, we do have about 20% of non-Labs in our adoption program at any given time. Labs are near and dear to our hearts, but we love all dogs. We usually keep 1-2 small breed dogs, too.
Our greatest “win” is purchasing 24 acres to develop a new facility against all odds. We had a lot of hurdles to overcome. First, we had to figure out how we were going to pay for the property. We then had to make sure the property was suitable. We had several hearings with the county for zoning changes. And we had to negotiate the purchase. At each of these steps, any small thing could have stopped us in our tracks. But we made it through each one. We still need to develop the property, but the future there is ours and the dogs. And we are so excited!
Our property is located just 20 miles west of Atlanta and has beautiful woods, a creek that runs through the middle, hiking trails and open space. We are planning a 9000 sq ft+ facility as well as a dog park. We will offer traditional pet care service, the proceeds from which will benefit our rescue mission. And we will have space for events, community activities and education.
What’s the most rewarding thing about working at your rescue?
For me, personally, it’s taking a lifetime of experience and knowledge in the dog industry and putting it to use to help solve the homeless pet crisis in our area. While I am currently focused on getting the new property developed, there are lots of programs we have planned for our rescue, to benefit homeless pets and our greater community. While it still seems so far off, I look at every progress we have now as working towards that goal and find it rewarding every day. I am blessed to be able to work our rescue full-time and it’s very rewarding to know that my life is dedicated to our mission.
What can people do to help your rescue?
The best ways to help our rescue right now are to donate or participate in our fundraisers, adopt a dog, or volunteer at events. And probably the BIGGEST thing we could use help with is any sort of assistance with developing our new facility – anything related to construction, engineering, landscaping and more. We don’t currently have a foster program, but that is in the works once our new facility is in place. While we are currently working on our new website, we find that Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/