The Saving Grace animal adoption center happened almost by accident. Its founder and executive director, Molly Goldston, was branching out from her former careers working with the SPCA and Wake County Animal Shelter and wanted to help match dogs with families so both would be happy.
“I wanted to have a way to go through those dogs and figure them out so that even if they have some quirks, that’s OK, but we would match them with someone who would know what they were getting a little bit more,” she said.
She became a dog trainer who helped people identify and pick the best shelter dogs to match their personalities and lifestyles. She was good at it, but sometimes she would come across dogs that didn’t quite fit what her clients were looking for. These, she brought home to a 10-acre farm that had been in her family for 100 years. Things grew slowly from there, and eventually her farm became a full-blown shelter called Saving Grace. It opened its doors officially in 2004.
“I probably started out doing 300 here,” she said. “We’ll probably do 800 this year.”
That’s 800 dogs that will find new homes because of her. Saving Grace isn’t your typical adoption center. The dogs frolic on the farm, getting to know each other and the people who care for them. Their personalities are carefully evaluated so that Goldston can help place them with the right families. They receive medical care and are crate-trained so they will be ready for family life.
This process largely grew out of Goldston’s frustration with the way most adoption centers worked. She takes matchmaking seriously.
David Fuoto knows firsthand what a great experience one can have at Saving Grace. He works at LexisNexis in Cary, and his company volunteered with the organization last month. That’s how he met Cyrus.
“Cyrus was one of the dogs who came right up to me when I got there,” he said in an email exchange. Cyrus had some health issues, but he made an impression.
“While we weren’t looking for another dog it was clear what a great dog Cyrus was, and all he really wanted was a home where people loved him,” Fuoto said.
So, after introducing Cyrus to his family’s other dog, Blue, Fuoto brought Cyrus home to stay. So far, it’s been happily ever after.
Far and wide
Goldston receives dogs from all over the state, mostly rural areas. Local animal control departments are her main providers, but she also gets dogs from puppy mills and abusive homes. Saving Grace has a puppy foster program in which families raise puppies to 10 weeks. Then they are vaccinated and come back to the farm. This way, puppies become acclimated to home life early.
Saving Grace is a no-kill shelter, meaning it keeps dogs until they find homes. (It charges a $300 adoption fee that helps cover expenses such as dog food and veterinary care but is mostly supported by private donors.) But sometimes, even when someone loves dogs as much as Goldston does, the dog won’t be able to adjust to domestic life.
If a dog is particularly violent or aggressive, then Saving Grace does euthanize it. The staff tries to avoid this, but sometimes the alternative for the dog and the shelter is grim.
“We don’t really want to house that dog for the next 10 years in a pen,” Goldston said.
For the most part, things run smoothly. Dogs usually stay at Saving Grace between a week and a month.
I’m one who knows well the joy of living with a dog. It’s not like any other relationship you will experience. If you want to know unconditional love at its most basic level, then I suggest you head to Saving Grace. It could be the start of one of the most loving partnerships you’ve ever had. Man’s Best Friend and all that. It’s no joke.
Alex Granados writes about people, places and traditions in North Raleigh and beyond. Contact him at email@example.com.