I was driving home from work in Seattle’s industrial SODO neighborhood when I saw what appeared to be the sign for a pet rescue. What?! How can there possibly be a pet rescue so close to my place of employment without me being aware of it?
Wondering if I had indeed just passed a sign that said Emerald City Pet Rescue or if I had taken my rescue obsession too far and was hallucinating, I Googled the name as soon as I pulled into my driveway. I wasn’t imagining things! A few days later I walked over on my lunch break, eager to learn more.
Emerald City Pet Rescue (ECPR) is a nonprofit with strong relationships with many shelters in California. They use a huge support network to pull, transport, vet, and foster the animals between California, Texas, and Washington. They take all different sizes and breeds of cats, dogs, and even horses! (The horses are kept in stables, not at the SODO location.)
The first thing I noticed was the boutique retail area. Not only is ECPR a very active rescue organization, but there’s also a nice pet supply shop in the front of the building stocked primarily with natural and organic brands of pet foods, treats, and various other pet related items. All proceeds go directly back into the rescue.
If I thought the retail area was nice, when they led me to the actual shelter, I felt a bit out of my league, as though I was walking into the lobby of a high-end spa (not that I would know, but …). High ceilings, glittery red granite counters, sleek black chairs, and fine art welcome guests as soon as they enter.
Hoping to see cute animals, I was shown a book they keep at the front desk. Those who want to visit with them must first complete an adoption application — which is probably good in my case, as I tend to fall immediately in love with homeless animals.
I explained to the development manager, Lou Kings, that I would love to learn more about this unique rescue — definitely the glitziest I’d ever seen. He invited me to attend the grand opening scheduled for the next weekend.
I attended the celebration with my six-year-old son and enjoyed my first crepe ever, a free Ben and Jerry’s cone, and a cup of Starbucks. The event was fun and classy, and I couldn’t get over my awe of the glamour of the facility. As I said, even the lobby of Emerald City Pet Rescue is swanky, but everywhere from the staff lounge to the offices to where the animals are housed is also gorgeous. You can’t help but notice that this is a place where you are going to feel warm and welcome.
Lou connected me with Vivian Goldbloom, the president and founder of Emerald City Pet Rescue. I’m not sure what it is with rescuers, but many of them are not only physically and spiritually beautiful, generous people, but they also have vibrant personalities as well. I talked to Vivian about the rescue and the work she does in animal rescue.
Kezia Willingham for Dogster: How did you get started in animal rescue?
Vivian Goldbloom: I’ve always loved animals, from the time I was a little girl. My parents were into rescue and our whole family was involved. I believe children should grow up with animals. They make childhood amazing and teach you how to be the best person you can be. Furry family members make your life complete. They make everything better. They give you love. They can go everywhere with you.
When did you start Emerald City Pet Rescue?
Like I said, I’ve been doing this my whole life. Before we moved into this building, we were housed in the back of the West Seattle VCA clinic. We grew really quickly and signed the lease here in December 2013. We moved into the building mid-April 2014 and opened the doors in May. I’ve been very active on social media and in forming partnerships and relationships with other rescuers and shelters.
I had a vision: I wanted a home environment for these animals who have been abused and neglected. Many shelters are cold, and because there are so many animals, they often get sick. I keep it very clean here.
This is a place where people can come and take the time to meet and choose their next family member. The animals get to roam free during the day and go in their kennels at night. They get socialized here. We have an in-house trainer named Erin Hartley who works with any issues they might have both before and after adoption. We give the animals stability, attention, and love, so when they move into their forever-home environment, the transition is a lot easier.
I know you bring a lot of your animals up from shelters in California. Why do you think the homeless pet problem is so big down there?
Honestly, I think it’s the combination of too many breeders and the high-kill shelters. But the shelters are really just stuck with a problem that nobody else wants to deal with; it’s not really their fault. They have limited funds and there are just so many abandoned animals.
People have a throwaway mentality. They get a purebred dog and when it has health issues they don’t want to pay the vet bills so they drop it off at a shelter or give it away. People don’t like to spend their money on animals. They don’t spay and neuter.
What do you see as solutions?
We need stricter laws on breeders, licensing and regulation. We need more spay and neuters, and microchips. I do think having more affordable veterinary care would help solve the problem.
I spent almost two hours with Vivian as we toured the facility, spent time with dogs and cats, and chatted about animal rescue. I was impressed with her passion and dedication. She told me that she tells each and every animal she rescues that “no one will ever put their [abusive] hands on you again. You will be safe, you will be taken care of.” Emerald City will take back any animal that they have adopted out after any length of time because of the promise she made to her animals. “When I make promises, I keep them,” she says. “This is my passion, what I believe in.” And you can see that from the minute you step into ECPR.
Vivian explains that partnerships and a social media presence are essential components of running a successful rescue organization. Without all the many partners — from those who pull from the shelters and those who transport the animals, to the vets, fosterers, donors, adopters, and volunteers — they would not be able to pull off a rescue movement of this size.
Do you know of a rescue hero — dog, human, or group — we should profile on Dogster? Write us at email@example.com.
About the author: Kezia Willingham works for Head Start by day and is a freelance writer on the side. She lives with her family, which includes 6 cats and 4 dogs, in the Pacific Northwest. Her writing has appeared in xoJane, Literary Mama, and the Seattle Times. You can follow her on Twitter.