For Forever Love Rescue founder Stephanie Baum, who happens to be allergic to animals, running the adoption center and gift shop she recently opened in the former Tail Chaser's space on Buford Avenue can be a particularly challenging test of her commitment to the cause.
"I wake up every morning not being able to breathe, spend the day clearing it out of my system, come in here and do what I need to do with the animals and then get up and do it all again the next day," Baum said. With a laugh, she adds, "I take a lot of medication."
The new space serves as a home base for the previously homeless organization that started out of Baum's house two and a half years ago, when the self-professed animal lover decided to parlay her habit of saving and fostering dogs into something bigger than simply a personal hobby. Since officially forming in 2013, the non-profit organization has placed upwards of 130 dogs and 170 cats into loving homes across the county - all without ever having a headquarters.
"We'd been looking for somewhere for a while to let people know that we're here," Baum says. "Before we had people calling us on our cell phones and saying, 'Where can I come and meet you and see what you're doing?' I didn't want to invite complete strangers into my home all the time, so this serves as a nice, cozy, comfortable place for us to do the work and gives people a place to find us."
Customers who visit the store will find not only cages full of fluffy, furry kittens and cats waiting to be placed in homes, but also an assortment of merchandise for pets and pet lovers, from odor-eliminating scented candles and pet collars to comfy bedding and pet paw decals that advocate for animal rescue.
The store, which Baum runs with her husband Jeffrey (who serves as vice president on the Forever Love board of directors and also maintains the pair's neighboring computer store, Inet Technology), was initially intended to serve only as an adoption center. As fate would have it, however, its opening coincided with the death of a woman who ran a pet gift store in Hanover.
While cats are kept in the store, dogs are still fostered in the homes of Baum and their volunteers until they are adopted via sites like AdoptAPet.com, PetFinder.com and Forever Love's own website. Because the storefront is only so big and temporary homes for the animals can sometimes be hard to come by, the Baums approach each new rescue with a commitment to the animal for its entire life. "When we take an animal on, it's because we have the space and we have the dedication to follow through with that animal, so we're able to make sure, from start to finish, that they're vetted, that we're taking care of any problems that are reasonable to take care of, and that we can find them good homes," Stephanie says, adding that animals are never euthanized unless they become so ill that it's not humane to prolong their suffering or unless they pose a danger to the community. She notes that adoptions become permanent after a 10-day trial period that can be extended if the owners are unsure that the fit is right, and that, should an owner's circumstances change such that they can no longer care for their pet, the store will take the animal back and find it another home.
Luckily, Baum adds, that is rarely the case: "Very few animals get returned to us, and it's typically not the fault of the pet but because of some drastic life change in the person where they can no longer care for it."
As to convincing prospective pet owners that rescue animals are a better choice than store-bought pets or those sold by breeders, Baum says she is fortunate to not have to put too much effort into persuading those who come in the doors.
The Baums are quick to note that they wouldn't be able to do any of what they do without the help of others who are passionate about animal rescue as they are: The store is staffed entirely with unpaid volunteers who serve various functions, from answering phones and cleaning litter pans to arranging veterinarian appointments and socializing with the animals. An additional group of board members and volunteers pick up the slack in other areas, such as spearheading Forever Love's trap-neuter-return efforts, picking up and returning blankets and towels that need to be laundered and transporting pets to and from the vet's office and community events where the animals are promoted for adoption.
To volunteer or to obtain more information about the efforts of the store, visit vegasnewleashonlife.com.