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A Place of Dignity
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Haisley wanted to eliminate elements that foster aggression and violent behavior, and consulted animal-care experts and visited holistic vets and human prisons during the project planning phase. (In a sad irony, Damon Ward, one of the architects of this peaceful place, was shot to death outside a nightclub. He never saw his final work completed.) “Our dream,” said Haisley, “has been to make this shelter a model, and a tangible resource for any group that houses and rehabilitates animals. We’re proud to be the first to build such a shelter, but we do not want it to be the only one of its kind. If more animal rescue agencies build facilities that actively enhance recovery and adoptions, the animal rescue option—and not pet stores, puppy mills or breeders—will become the standard, most attractive, most reliable way to choose an animal companion.”

And indeed, WARL caretakers expect that adoptions will greatly increase as folks find their way here. Animals have resilient spirits that respond to the nurturing environment. “They’re not shelter dogs. They’re pets. These dogs are so easy now,”remarked kennel technician Steve Szot. Just ask Columbus, Gardenia, Atlantis, Quaker, Paddy, Nigel, Noah, Ping-Pong, Wedgie or Big Byrd. They may not speak the language of humans, but their eyes speak volumes, and the furious wagging of tails in unison is a sonata of unbridled, adoptable joy.

Inscribed on the back of a League T-shirt is a quote, profoundly poignant in its simplicity, from that gentle visionary Mahatma Gandhi: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated,” a sentiment at the heart of this new home for homeless animals. A place where all life has value. A place of dignity.

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 40: Jan/Feb 2007
Carol Guzy is a four-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist. She is a photographer for the Washington Post, and won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News for her portraits following the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

Photographs by Carol Guzy.

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