Announcing the Shipley Dog Lodges

Atkins the white dog in front of a group of people when moving into the Shipley Dog Lodges
By Julie Castle

Friends, I have exciting news. We just opened a state-of-the-art living and learning facility at the Sanctuary for dogs with behavior challenges: the Shipley Dog Lodges. Not only does this represent a fresh start for the dogs who come here, it provides a place for Best Friends to innovate and model how to care for dogs most at risk of being killed in our nation’s shelters.

Now, it’s no secret that we’ve done behavioral work with the dogs in our care at Dogtown for many, many years. But a lot of those structures that we built in the early days aren’t ideal for dogs who would benefit from a more managed, calm, and less-trafficked environment. We needed a place designed around everything we’ve learned about dogs with these challenges that would benefit both them and the people caring for them. Every single aspect of this new, six-acre facility was designed to support the behavioral training of otherwise easily adopted dogs and to get them into loving homes as quickly as possible.

The Shipley Dog Lodges are a nod to the future through the experiences of the past. The work that will be done there is the latest and greatest iteration of dog lifesaving efforts. To that end, I’d like to share some words from the director of Dogtown, Ali Waszmer:

“I want to start by sharing the story of a dog named Kobe. Kobe was arguably the most influential dog in my career. He changed my life trajectory. I met him while volunteering at my local shelter during college. At the time, I was unsure what I wanted to do with my life and mostly intended to be a career student. Kobe had been adopted and then returned for aggression toward women in his adoptive home. Shortly after his return, the trainer grabbed me, spent about two minutes showing me how to teach a dog to sit, and locked me in a clinic exam room with Kobe. In retrospect, I have some safety concerns … but at the end of that first session with Kobe, I knew what I wanted to do with my life and my career. Without Kobe, I would not be standing here today.

My story is not unique though. If you ask animal welfare employees or dog trainers across the country how they got into this field, you’ll likely hear some version of the same story. But that is not a fluke nor a coincidence. There is a magic that dogs with behavior challenges possess, and that magic is in their ability to artfully and generously teach us. They teach us about dogs and dog behavior but also about ourselves and each other. These lessons stay with us, inspire us to grow, and drive innovation. I am hard-pressed to think of more graceful teachers.

Yet, dogs with behavior challenges are often the first to lose their lives in shelters across the country. It makes me wonder what lessons we’ve lost and which people never met their Kobe. That thought has weighed heavily on me throughout my career. As the Shipley Dog Lodges have come to fruition, though, the weight of that thought has started to lessen. I feel a tremendous sense of hope and optimism for the future of these dogs. The Shipley Lodges are now our classroom: a place designed to support the lessons of our greatest teachers and the Dogtown team who are their students. That impact goes beyond Dogtown though, as the Shipley Lodges have a humility and relatability that will allow us to share what we learn, creating a ripple in animal welfare.

I want to take a moment to thank Jason, Sarah, and Samantha Shipley and the Shipley Foundation for making this a reality. For seeing the magic and standing alongside us to create a space to honor our best friends and eternal teachers. A space where the Kobes of the world can share their lessons and continue to inspire us. Lastly, I would like to take a moment to appreciate all the dogs who have taught each and every one of us and laid the path for us all to be here today, celebrating a place designed to celebrate them.”

Here's to the future.


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Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society