Make no mistake about it, Russell is happy to see you.
Even after a full year at Goochland’s temporary animal shelter on Dogtown Road, even after several false starts and dashed hopes, the sweet-faced little mixed breed is the kind of dog that will never let a visitor pass his pen without making sure they see him.
He’s a little older and doesn’t see so well, explained shelter coordinator Julie Lawrence, which may explain why Russell is one of a handful of dogs that have stayed at the shelter for an extended period of time, in some cases over a year.
“It’s a shame that these animals are overlooked,” Lawrence said, “because so many of them would make wonderful pets.”
Still, she said, she is also a believer in the idea that finding the right match between pet and person can sometimes take a little time — and a pinch of intuition. After over six years of working at the shelter, Lawrence has developed a way of gently guiding would-be adopters who might not be sure what animal would best suit their families.
When it comes down to it, Lawrence said, the staff is always trying to help make the best choice possible for both parties.
Whatever their methods, it seems to be working: over the last year, the shelter has found homes for 57 dogs and 63 cats, thanks in part to Facebook and websites like Petfinder. They do, in very rare instances, have to euthanize an animal, though it is only done if the animal is deemed too dangerous, sick or injured to be able to save.
Even the animals that do take longer to get adopted do eventually find homes, Lawrence said. One hound named Pancakes was so shy that it took the staff nearly five months just to get him out of his pen, and then another three to get him out for a walk.
Finally, just last month, Pancakes was adopted into a loving home.
The shelter staff’s work should get a bit easier — or at least more comfortable—in the near future, with the opening of the county’s long-awaited new animal shelter, a 14,000 square foot space complete with a dedicated pet adoption area.
Though construction delays and a change of contractor last year put the project behind schedule, it could reportedly be open as early as June, Lawrence said.
Until then, Lawrence said, they will continue to do their best with what they have, which includes plenty of volunteer support and an unwavering hope that each and every animal they bring in can someday find a home.
Over in his pen, Russell eagerly takes a treat from Lawrence’s hand and shimmies in a circle, a whirling doggie dervish on short stubby legs.
His family is out there somewhere, Lawrence said, and neither she nor Russell looks ready to give up until they find them.