We Are Harmony

We Are Harmony

By Emera Thornton

We figure the best way we can make a difference is by doing things...differently.

After spending almost 15 years in the hospitality industry and desperately chasing a more fulfilling career, the only things I knew for sure were that I wanted to make a difference in the world and I loved animals. Four years ago, I responded to a job listing for Bark's Play and Stay, and as soon as I sat down to interview with Danielle, it all clicked into place for me. I loved her passion and confidence. As a VERY cautious person myself, her dive-right-in attitude was fascinating (and terrifying. I've lost track of how many comfort zones she dragged me out of kicking and screaming...Thanks, girl) After my first day, I knew without a doubt I could never do anything but work with animals. The position was (very) part time, I was the only employee, and I had zero experience. There were days I would go home and tell my man-friend, "Babe, I had TWELVE dogs today...twelve! By myself!" and I couldn't believe someone was actually paying me to play with those twelve kids. Then suddenly part-time was full-time, I was becoming an expert in all things Dog, and twelve pups a day on average quickly turned into 100. And I was hooked. Best Job Ever...almost.

It became pretty clear to us early on that while playing with furry, slobbery mutts all day was easily the most fun we could have at "work", we both wanted more. It wasn't enough to just hang out with dogs, we wanted to help the ones we weren't seeing. The ones who didn't have families to bring them to daycare or have them pampered and polished. The ones who didn't have families at all. So here we are. And here is Harmony:

Let's get real for a second- we all know the plight of the homeless animal is a serious and desperate one. We have all seen the heart wrenching puppy commercials; abandoned and abused dogs crying out from the TV screen, begging with sad eyes to be saved. We have all felt the pang of guilt as we changed the channel....well don't worry. That's not how we roll.

When you walk into Harmony, if you pity the dogs here, then we are doing it wrong. We want to throw away the idea that an animal shelter is nothing more than a sad halfway house in between loving homes. What we really are is...a vacation. A wellness spa. Doggie rehab... but the fancy celebrity kind. A place where pups come in, get cleaned up, make some friends, and recharge before heading off to be the best dog they can be with their new families. If there are no perfect matches to be had for a pup for whatever reason, we become their forever family. We are a Rescue, a Matchmaker, and a Sanctuary.

Our current fundraising efforts are focused on converting the old horse barn on our property into the Harmony "oasis." Here, the dogs will be housed in pods, or "mini-packs" of 4-6 pups. Each pod will have their own play yard, full access to inside and outside all day, and a cozy bedroom to snuggle up in together at night. Our years of dog daycare experience will come in handy as we evaluate behavior and personalities to find the best possible matches. Not only will they sleep and play with their pack, but they will learn together, gaining confidence and socialization skills. Kind of like Hogwarts houses if the dogs were wizards...

We also know that it take a village. Our Grand Valley village specifically- which is why our enrichment programs are geared toward our amazing community of animal lovers. We encourage everyone to spend as much time with the Harmony dogs as they can, regardless of plans to adopt. College students missing your family dog back home? Come snuggle Charlie Brown on the couch. Teaching your kiddos to read? We have tons of children's books, and Danny is a GREAT listener. Trying to get healthy? Borrow Benny for a run- he'll keep you motivated! Stressed and anxious? Suffering a loss? Just having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? Jill just wants to look into your eyes, and say it's all going to be ok, you'll see, have a kiss. You can check out pups for an hour, a day, even a whole week! Commitment free, and VERY appreciated. Everyone wins!

Bottom line: our rescue will never be a row of sad faces in cages, but instead groups of thriving pups who are developing their personalities and having fun doing it. When you walk through our doors and see them romping and playing and napping, you'll be able to picture them romping with your dogs, playing ball with your kids, and napping in the sun on your living room floor. When you see them and it challenges you, dares you to do even better, to give them even more, we will know that we are doing something right.

If you follow us on social media, or keeping up on our blogs, here is our promise to you: We will lead this rescue toward the future the way that we strive to lead our own lives- with positivity, compassion, kindness, and as much lighthearted humor as we can find. We will not guilt you into adopting a dog, we will not judge you if you have to give one up. We will not shame you if you choose to buy from a breeder, and we will not litter your news feed with bleak pictures and hopeless stories. Because, if we are honest, our biggest teachers at Harmony are the dogs. So we will follow their lead and face everything that comes our way with joy, courage, trust, and forgiveness. We are Harmony.