From (L to R): Butterscotch (photo credit: Tommy Leonardi), KandyKakes (photo credit: Marius and Kelly Enache), Krimpet (photo credit: Kristina Martinez)
There’s something about volunteering that feels more rewarding than getting paid to do something or even just giving money. Do you feel the same way? I haven’t seriously dedicated time to volunteering since I opened P.S. & Co. on Locust Street in 2014. Even though we donate money and host fundraisers, there’s something about giving time that feels so different and so good.
I wish I could be surrounded by animals everyday. I do not discriminate. I love all of them from snakes to bunnies! There are so many fantastic rescues right in the Delaware Valley.
I landed upon A New Leash on Life (NLOL) a few years ago when we chose them as a recipient of our monthly to-go packaging fund (guests were charged for take-out bags and utensils if they requested, and these small cents adding up to over $1,500/month for local rescues). To me, the mission of NLOL checks many boxes: helping animals and people by reducing recidivism in incarcerated individuals and helping rehabilitate high-risk shelter dogs to find their furever homes. We all love a glow up story, and these humans and underdogs both get second chances.
To me, just giving money feels…distant. Am I selfish? Giving money provides some peace of mind that we did something, but giving time somehow makes me feel happy for days.
On a gorgeous, autumn Saturday, 8 guests from P.S. & Co and two of NLOL’s staff members took the newest training class on a beautiful hike in Pennypack Park. The current cohort is named the Tastycake Class with 5 dogs: Chocolate Junior, KandyKake, Krimpet, Butterscotch (Krimpet and Butterscotch were found together) and Snowball. They are 3 weeks into their behavioral training program and have already mastered basic commands and gained much needed weight. All of them were found in deplorable states with open wounds, emaciated bodies and tied up outside, abandoned and alone. Each cohort must pass 3 phases of tests to earn a spot in this amazing training program. By the time they are matched within the prison system with their handler, the chosen dogs are already social with humans and dogs, are not food or toy aggressive, not sensitive to sudden sounds, etc. During the 12-week program, these dogs who were rescued from the 11th hour of euthanasia are given life skills to become stable, calm, happy dogs in their future homes.
Tommy and Butterscotch navigating the trails together.
How often are we hit with social media posts about dogs who have been in the shelter for 1 year, 3 years or longer, or dogs who are on the short list to be euthanized due to behavioral concerns? It feels like it’s daily, and I feel helpless that no matter how much money we donate, the problem seems to be getting worse. Somehow being involved in getting to the root of the problem before it becomes a problem (like how we focus on food as medicine for the restaurant) feels like we can make a small difference. I’ve accepted the reality that as long as there are people, there will continue to be animals who are irresponsibly bred, abused, used, and discarded. Which is why I'm such a fan of A New Leash on Life.
“New Leash on Life USA leverages the powerful bond between humans and dogs to restore hope, healing and well-being to transform lives.
Founded in 2010, New Leash on Life USA rescues at-risk dogs and works with justice-involved individuals in both prison and community settings to create second chances. Leveraging the powerful bond between humans and dogs, our unique model prepares a vulnerable population of underserved people, many living in poverty, with life skills workshops and career services and gives our rescue dogs a second chance at life and adoption into forever homes.
Our programs are based on animal-assisted therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and trauma-informed practices. By providing tools and strategies for changing negative patterns and increased opportunities for meaningful employment, we help our participants grow as responsible returning citizens. Using this approach, we promote safe neighborhoods by assisting the disenfranchised in society with a successful transition back into their families and communities.
“New Leash’s signature program is the Prison Reentry Program (PRP), which has a unique model that delivers life skills and career readiness workshops to incarcerated individuals. Our animal-assisted therapy model creates a strong human-animal bond that increases empathy in our participants and provides motivation and belief in self-change as they experience heightened self-efficacy, coping abilities, self-esteem, and social confidence following interaction with animals. Upon graduation, our participants are released on early parole, complete a paid internship, and receive individualized case management.” - New Leash on Life
I’m incredibly inspired by what organizations like NLOL are doing to make our communities better. I’d like to be a small part of their bigger picture. Our guests and I LOVED spending time with their dogs and hearing their stories. Working with Juliet of NLOL was a dream. Together, it was a pleasure to organize our first monthly shelter hike with guests from P.S. & Co. and their latest cohort of dogs. We plan on organizing monthly hikes moving forward, so if you missed the first one, please join the next one! (Sign up for our newsletter, or fill out our volunteer form, and follow us on Instagram to never miss an update!) For generously sharing your time with us, I’ll bring healthy, organic, plant-rich, gluten-free treats from the restaurant (and gift cards to anyone who can help transport dogs, too).
Here's Snowball being cute. I loved her squishy body and stunning black and white markings.
My buddy for the day was Butterscotch. She’s a slim, shy girl, but also strong, smart and the most affectionate girl I’ve ever met. (Even more affectionate than my girl, Tuffy. Don’t tell her I said so!) Despite the scars on Butterscotch’s face, all she does is want to do the right thing and give you kisses. I’m amazed by how dogs can trust humans despite their pasts. I’m forever awed by the loyalty of animals and their ability to connect with us.
If you are a rescue who happens to be reading this and would like to coordinate with us to help take dogs on local hikes, I would be thrilled to rally the troops. And, Juliet is already making things happen for us to be involved with NLOL regularly. (Thank you, Juliet!)
It was incredibly joyful being able to connect with guests and friends outside the restaurant, while spending time over a shared love of animals and the outdoors. Movement, connection, giving back, being in fresh air, snacking on nutritious treats… it’s many of the things that bring me happiness. And I love to share that with all of you. I’m still smiling from our wonderful day together and can’t wait to do it again.
Here's Butterscotch being a perfect back-seat passenger. (The only one missing from this outing was Chocolate Junior was recovering from a vet visit.)