by Jim Baker
Dreamy in Dedham
Things were bad at the Animal Rescue League of Boston’s Dedham branch—from a design standpoint. The 4,850-square-foot shelter, which opened in 1985, featured the cinderblock-and-chain-link aesthetic of that era, and wasn’t a pleasant place for people or pets. “It was so old that even when it was clean, it looked dirty,” recalls shelter manager Lisa Lagos. “Our staff were crammed into what we called the ‘back closet.’ … I didn’t have a desk—I had actually a shelf that I lowered to sitting height.” Dogs, meanwhile, were housed in a double row of cages that faced each other, so one barking dog would set off a chorus of howls. Felines were crammed into every nook and cranny. The shelter needed a massive makeover, and that’s what it got: In June, the Animal Rescue League unveiled its $2.7 million, down-to-studs renovation of the Dedham branch.
You Got Me What?
John Breslow could have gotten his wife Sonia just about anything she wanted for her 60th birthday, but he chose to surprise the animal lover with a new adoption center named in her honor, paying $2 million of the project’s $3 million total cost. For more than two years, Breslow and the Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA in Phoenix kept the gift a secret, before the 12,000-square-foot center was unveiled in March, at a special event for the couple and about 80 of their friends. The adoption center, located near four other buildings on the organization’s older property, will double the number of pets the AAWL can pull each year from the open-intake shelters of Maricopa County Animal Care & Control and the Arizona Humane Society. (The AAWL adopted out more than 3,000 pets in 2011.) “Even though I was there for every single meeting, every single plan, and every change to every plan, I could not envision how beautiful it looks,” says Judith Gardner, president and CEO. One neat feature is a second-story balcony, covered in artificial turf, which runs the length of one side of the building. Staff offices have sliding-glass doors that open to the balcony. “So we can have dogs in our offices, and just open the door, and let them run around out there,” Gardner says. Vince Dalke of Archicon Architecture & Interiors thinks it makes a great first impression on visitors. “The old [adoption] building was back on an industrial street, tucked away behind some old buses and stuff. This building raises the bar for the organization,” he says.
Few rescue groups are fortunate enough to have their own shelter, let alone the new space that Westside German Shepherd Rescue in Los Angeles now calls home: a $4.5 million facility designed to resemble a modern Cape Cod-style residence. Wood shingles sheathe the outside, while clean lines and cool colors dominate the interior. If it looks more like a home that might be featured in the pages of Architectural Digest than a typical shelter, that’s no mistake. “When we first met with the client, they had this concept of rather than rescuing dogs, they were rehoming dogs. So they wanted people to come to the facility and feel like they were adopting a dog from somebody else’s home,” says Rania Alomar of RA-DA, an architecture firm in West Hollywood that designed the shelter. The rescue, founded by Robin Jampol in 2002, moved into the 11,000-square-foot facility in October 2011, after nearly a decade of boarding its dogs in a succession of veterinary hospitals and kennels—the last one located in a warehouse under a major L.A. freeway. The facility was made possible by a gift from a wealthy donor, who paid to renovate the property—formerly a printing company—over more than two years. The shelter has 59 runs, three isolation runs, two rooms for maternal care and puppies, and 2,000 square feet of space for play, socialization, and training, among other features. The facility is a huge step forward for the rescue, which rehomes 700-800 dogs per year. “This is definitely rags to riches,” Jampol says.
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