Julie Uthoff, founder of Pawfect Life, did not let her full-time job nor her busy family home life with two dogs & two teenagers get in the way of her passion for animals. After a very tough visit to Alabama in 2012, Julie was inspired to help save the approx. 700,000 dogs that are euthanized in the US yearly and opened her own dog rescue. Pawfect Life rescue was born in 2013 out of a pure passion for helping the thousands of adoptable dogs that get put on death row for the simple reason “there is not enough space.”
When asked what inspired her, Julie talked about two main experiences. The first was the passing of her mother 7 years ago, and how it initiated a change in the way she approached life. It really made her ask the question, “What is my purpose... Why am I here…What good am I doing in this world?” She knew it was not just to get up and go to work every day and that she had to find something else. This ultimately initiated a pursuit of her passion for animals and a trip down south that solidified her “purpose.”
On her first trip to the Birmingham Jefferson shelter in Alabama in 2012, she could not fathom the distraught and helpless conditions the dogs were in. She went on to talk about how this particular shelter takes in around 1000 dogs a month but only adopts out about 40. Inside the shelter, she saw that one side was filled with males and the other side was filled with females. Then, in the middle, there was a section of dogs up for adoption. She stated,
“This led me to the question of what happens to the other nine-hundred and something dogs?” Julie followed by explaining while shaking her head, ‘The gentleman, Richard, who worked there, he showed me his knuckles and he had “Save Them” tattooed across his knuckles because manually by injection, he is euthanizing nine-hundred and something dogs a month.’
Her face was filled with disbelief even today as she talked about this. She brought back her first dog, Riley, from this shelter, and noted that “This is the dog that changed my life.” It was not long after that Julie began the process to open up her own foster based dog rescue that can help save and transport adoptable dogs to MA, and assist the community when needed.
Pawfect Life Rescue is a foster based animal rescue that is literally run out of their house. Driving up, you can see a nice little sign in front of the driveway and the tan two-story New England style home in the background. On Monday, they hold an open house where pre-approved families can meet their potential future “furbaby.” Julie mentioned that it can get pretty wild in her kitchen with as many as 15 families and dogs and volunteers, but you could tell she absolutely loves it.
Nicole and I had the luxury of stopping in on a Monday to catch a glimpse of the action. After walking through the front door, you can see dog gates fixed within all hallways. This is when you know you are either in a dog house or a baby house (or both). Since we brought the little one along, it was perfect. Next, we were greeted with a warm welcome and smiles from everyone there. Everyone made us feel right at home. I think our daughter, Aubrielle, had the best time out of all of us!
We were fortunate to meet a few of the pups up for adoption (Ruby, Cooper, Willow, Zoey, & Ziggy) as well as her husband and main supporter, Jim, and some of the fantastic volunteers that help make Pawfect Life the great organization it is. I must also mention that we were lucky enough to hold a few locally rescued puppies. Nicole was quite thrilled if you cannot tell by the pictures. After settling in and getting a brief tour, we were able to discuss the current state of Pawfect Life as well as the future of this wonderful small dog rescue.
When speaking with Julie, you cannot help but notice how passionate she is about the rescue and the progress it has made. It is amazing to hear how far they have come since opening in 2013. Julie noted, “We saved about 50 dogs in 2013…Just in January of 2018, we have already saved 30.” It is important to note that because they are a foster based rescue without an adoption facility or isolation space, they are limited in the number of rescues they can take and adopt out. Julie explained that the key is isolation space.
I learned that it is quite the complicated process to transport dogs into the state. One of the many Massachusetts State requirements is having the dog in isolation for 48 hours before being inspected by an MA licensed Vet. Pawfect Life rescue currently works with another wonderful rescue shelter who allows them to use 5 isolation spaces a week. However, this will all be changing in May when they expect to open their very own isolation facility! This will allow them to greatly improve the number of lives they can save and be a huge step for the rescue. This is considered “Phase I” of their expansion plan. On deck is phase II which will be a full-on adoption center, but is likely a couple years away. I personally cannot wait to see how many more dog's lives are saved once this isolation center opens.
In a world where no good deed goes unpunished, I also wanted to bring up that Pawfect Life has received some negative press for helping out their local animal control team by taking in a litter of local purebred puppies that were not being properly cared for in their previous home. I still cannot understand how anyone could perceive this as an issue, but I feel the need to note that our local animal control groups are grossly underfunded for the number of cases they must deal with (not to mention 13 puppies). Anyone that has had a puppy knows how much work 1 is! It is our local Animal Rescues like Pawfect Life that are key partners in our community that help save dogs from the south and keep abandoned or abused local animals alive and cared for. I suggest those that think otherwise visit their local animal control and ask the officer to tell them some stories of animals in their care or better yet, take a trip to Alabama, Mississippi, or Tennessee, and witness what it is like down there. Adoption fees usually barely cover the costs associated with the transport and vetting, not to mention the volunteer time required to care for and help find a dog's forever home.
Without wonderful people like Julie, Jim and the rest of the Pawfect life volunteers, who knows how many more innocent lives would be lost. To finish, I’ll leave you with a great quote from Julie that I believe sums Pawfect Life Rescue up wonderfully.
“It is a labor of love. Everybody here volunteers their time and talents outside of their full-time jobs and raising their families, but it’s something that we love and we believe in... When you see these dogs that had no chance without you, and then you take them in, and you find them a wonderful family… And you’re changing that family’s life so that their lives are enhanced and they’re happy… It’s just amazing, that connection, seeing those two things. And that’s what makes us keep doing what we’re doing.”