By Jason Klaiber
Instead of the traditional ribbon cutting, Helping Hounds Dog Rescue celebrated the long-awaited opening of its new home with a “leash cutting” on Jan. 21.
The nonprofit organization moved from its Kinne Road location in DeWitt to a facility three times the size located at 7268 Caswell St. in North Syracuse, where a recreation center for the U.S. Air Force once stood.
“This building is beyond our dreams,” Kathy Gilmour, the organization’s executive director, said. “The amazing things that we are going to be able to do here just very much excite us. We are still in awe.”
The 9,000-square-foot space, designed with the help of Cornell University’s Shelter Medicine Program, houses upwards of 40 indoor and outdoor kennels along with 22 cages made specifically for puppies.
The enclosures come complete with sheets containing information about each dog.
The new space’s kennel area — modeled after a village and therefore laid out with street names and house numbers — has been named in dedication to Kelly Wilson, a Helping Hounds volunteer who passed away at age 26 in 2017.
Walker’s Way has been named after a dog Wilson adopted from the rescue shelter, while Lola Jean Lane honors the first dog ever taken in by Helping Hounds.
Save a Stray Path, Love On Wheels Drive and Underdog Express-Way recognize the organization’s partnerships in Alabama and Texas.
The site also contains a multi-purpose room to be used mainly for humane care taking education, a break room, a merchandise area, a meal preparation station, training rooms, a pair of fenced-in play yards, and a medical center offering health assessments as well as needs such as first aid and bathing for dogs.
An isolation area in the building prevents illnesses from spreading to visitors.
“A lot of thought has gone into this building to make sure our dogs are comfortable and that it welcomes the community back over and over again,” Gilmour said. “The old building limited us in so many ways.”
Gilmour said the “cramped quarters” at the previous location in DeWitt forced the employees to meet with people and counsel them over the noise of barking, whereas now the dogs reside on the opposite end of the building.
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said during the Jan. 21 ceremony that the “state-of-the-art” Helping Hounds facility in North Syracuse represents a “success story” for the county at large.
“We could not have done this without our dedicated Helping Hounds staff, our very active board of directors, our hundreds of volunteers, incredibly generous donors and several elected officials,” Crystal DeStefano, the president of the board of directors for Helping Hounds, said.
In addition to its adoption services, Helping Hounds will also take in dogs and keep them in respite sections when their owners temporarily cannot care for them for a variety of personal, medical or financial reasons.
Closed on Mondays, Helping Hounds Dog Rescue stays open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
The nonprofit will continue fundraising to meet its $1.2 million budget for building renovations.
To learn more, visit helpinghoundsdogrescue.org.