By Natalia Bartkowiak
The setup of the space was rather informal, to the point that it was difficult to understand what to do once someone entered. At the front of Durham’s ReCity Network’s communal area was a large table filled with business cards, informational booklets about Yadid’it Dog Training and Sustainable Dog Rescue, and raffle items.
The event included vendors selling their artwork, a table filled with food, and beverages for sale in the back. People sat and conversed at circular tables set up throughout the space, their plates full of food.
Another table had bricks of varying sizes laid out, which could be decorated for a monetary contribution. The bricks will be used in building the Sustainable Dog Rescue, part of the purpose for the fundraising event.
Kids ran around the venue, laughing and interacting with Yadid’it’s foster dogs. The students of Partners for Youth Opportunity, an organization that helps young people get involved in their communities, helped watch six of Yadid’it’s foster dogs, whom they had met for the first time earlier that night. Simply put, a lot was happening.
“This was the first event that we’ve done of this caliber in terms of the size, the space, the number of dogs,” Shana Yadid, lead trainer and founder of both Yadid’it Dog Training and Yadid’it Sustainable Dog Rescue, said. “But this event was designed in a way where we could have more dogs here, so that the experience was fuller. There was more happening around you, there was more bonding, and you could feel it in the space because there was so much of it going on.”
These dogs know fashion
The,“Dogs Make a Difference: Fashion Show” event took place on February 22 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. as a collaboration between Partners for Youth Opportunity (PYO) and Yadid’it Dog Training. It was hosted to not only showcase the dogs Yadid had available for adoption, but to also encourage people to donate to help fund the construction of the facility that will house Yadid’it’s Sustainable Dog Rescue nonprofit.
The event’s main draw, however, was the informal dog “fashion show,” where the dogs wore glitter-encrusted party hats, while the PYO students wore necklaces made by one of the event’s featured vendors, Molly Made It, owned by Molly Chmura, a junior at Durham School of the Arts and Yadid’it Dog Training intern.
“This is my first event, but I came up with the idea [of Molly Made It] because I’m an art student and I really love art and I wanted to do something to help,” Chmura said, when asked about her art. “So, the art that helps me calm down helps these dogs get new homes. So I learned that what I do to calm myself down can benefit others.”
During the show, PYO students led Yadid’it’s “founding fosters,” primarily pit bull mixes, around the venue as Chmura described each dog’s life story and personality. All of the dogs were taken from kill shelters to Yadid’s rescue. Everyone laughed when Elroy, a small pit bull mix, tried to eat his hat, and applauded when Wendy, a brown pocket pit bull mix with a torn cranial cruciate ligament (canine ACL) began walking on her front paws, as if she was trying to prove that she was able to do so; most of the time Wendy dragged her back paws, attracting a lot of love and attention. Another dog was Buck, who loved to give people kisses and whose almond-shaped eyes gave him an eternally soulful, caring gaze. Through the dogs’ adorable antics, the event slowly became relaxed and familial.
“I’m very proud of my dogs and how well they handled [the event],” Yadid said after the showcase, grinning. “It was their first time being handled by unfamiliar people at an event like this.”
All six adoptable foster dogs were exceptionally well-trained and remained calm and friendly for the duration of the event, even in the presence of rowdy children and other dogs. At no extra cost to the adopter, Yadid offered to train the dogs once they are adopted to ensure that the dogs are less likely to be returned.
“Training is the way to mitigate a high return rate,” Yadid passionately explained. “The reason it’s such a consequential issue is because when a dog gets returned to a shelter, they have significantly higher chances of being euthanized.”
Despite some chaos at the start of the event, it was ultimately a success. As the night came to a close and dogs and people alike grew tired, Yadid spoke one last time to the event’s attendees.
“Tonight was all about understanding how dogs can make a difference and giving that theme a more tangible feel,” Yadid said, pointing in the direction of the dogs. “That leash? It’s a connection and it brings us together… Dogs teach people what unconditional love really looks like, and how they can embody that as well.”
At the end of the event, Yadid’it received three adoption applications. Several of the PYO students also voiced a desire to adopt one of the dogs at the event.
The dream needs help
At the event, a small group of onlookers laughed as Yadid demonstrated how she had taught Ember, her own dog, to play dead. The large black dog rolled over onto her side, eyes completely focused on Yadid, who had two fingers pointed in the air and a huge smile on her lips. When people asked her questions about her passion, her dogs, and her dreams, she answered sincerely and confidently, completely sure of her answers. This is what she wants to devote her life to, after all. Now, all she needs is her community’s help to make her dream of a Sustainable Dog Rescue come to life.
“That’s what tonight was really about,” Yadid said at the event, “spreading the word that we are so close to seeing our vision in its own space and we just need that extra push from our community.”
Yadid has to raise $300,000 so that she can receive a loan for the $2 million she needs to build the shelter space and training facility of her dreams.
The building will be three stories high, and include training areas, a living space to allow 24 hour care, and will not only continue to provide dog training to adopters, but will also help Yadid provide programs for people who are victims of sexual trauma, including fully sponsored adoptions. The facility will be entirely self-sustaining, in that it will provide its own funding and will have a sustainable farm component to supplement the dogs’ diets and reduce the rescue’s carbon footprint.
“The cause [of the rescue] is a combination of wanting to help people and dogs and doing what we can to heal the environment,” Yadid said.
Yadid is perpetually faced with challenges, monetary and otherwise. When asked about what gets her through those challenges, Yadid answered without any hesitation, a loving tone in her voice.
“When I’m down, I look at my dogs. Honestly. I look at their little faces and they keep me going. They keep me moving forward because it’s not about me,” Yadid said. “They can’t do anything to change their struggle, only I can. That is why I do what I do, because I don’t want them to feel the struggles, I just want them to live happy, wonderful lives.”
Although there is no specific deadline for the funding, Yadid needs the funds as soon as possible.
“The sooner, the better. That is the deadline,” Yadid said. “We’ve been expanding the offer on the property, and the seller is being patient with us, but the sooner we can raise the funds, the better off we are.”
The best ways to support this cause are by purchasing items from Chmura and services from Yadid’it Dog Training, who donate 80 and 10 percent of their profits respectively to funding the rescue. It is also possible to simply donate money directly to Yadid’it’s Sustainable Dog Rescue campaign on the crowdfunding website iFundWomen.
“We’re excited and we’re terrified,” Yadid said, “but I have been saying recently that if you’re both excited and terrified, you’re probably doing something right.”
Edited by Spencer Carney