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Project Open Paw Brings Food and Hope To Homeless Dogs

Written by: Adri Sandoval
Adri Sandoval is the Special Projects Manager for iHeartDogs and iHeartCats. Her work has deepened her love for animals, fostering a strong passion for rescue and animal advocacy.Read more
| Published on August 13, 2018

Many of us wish that we could save every homeless dog we see. Paul Crowell took the most important step in making the wish come true – action.

While walking to and from his job at a boarding kennel, Paul would see several homeless people out with their dogs. He noticed that though they did their best to keep their pups fed and healthy, it was difficult from their position. Homelessness makes everything uncertain, and many don’t know where they’ll sleep that night or if they’ll eat that day – those concerns multiply when they have a dog.

The boarding kennel where Paul worked had issues of it’s own. Several pounds of dog food were thrown out every week even though it was still good. However, the boarded dogs wouldn’t eat it and it would go to waste. In an interview with GoFundMe blog, Paul said:

“I started rescuing that food from being thrown in the garbage, and I delivered it to the many homeless dogs I saw in the encampments around here.”

Paul’s generosity earned him a reputation and a nickname from the people and pets he helped. They called him “the Doggy Food Man” and knew they could rely on him for a meal for their dogs.

But when the boarding facility was bought by a new owner they immediately put a stop to Paul’s “rescuing” the unwanted food. Several wasted pounds went into the garbage instead of the bellies of the homeless dogs Paul had come to know.

“I got really upset. I really loved doing it, and it brought so much joy to my life. I didn’t want to lose that.”

Paul refused to let that be the end of his good work. He couldn’t make the kennel donate the food to his cause but he knew there had to be other ways to continue. He heard about GoFundMe through younger coworkers who had used crowdfunding before, and set up a campaign for food for homeless dogs in late 2015. He called his campaign “Project Open Paw”.

Over the past few years so much support has poured in for Paul’s work that he has raised his goal from the original $30,000 mark. So far, he’s raised a little over $101,000 for dogs. Paul insists on high quality food, since the dogs need good nutrition to live as rough a lifestyle as they do. When local donations slump, Paul uses the funds from his GoFundMe campaign to fill the gap. He puts together bags to distribute, each containing 10 cups of kibble, a can of food, and a few treats. He gives away about 30 – 40 bags a week, and estimates that each costs about $10.

The money donated not only buys food that Paul distributes to the homeless community, but also pays for vet care for pets who might otherwise not get any. The city is not as hospitable to the homeless, making it hard to schedule appointments with a veterinarian. Often, by the time the need is brought to Paul’s attention, the problem has become an emergency, which is much more expensive than routine care.

When he finds strays, or when an owner is no longer able to keep their dog, Paul will help find the pup a new home. His own dog, Yankee, was the first dog he rescued from the streets. The pup went to several homes but acted out until it was decided that he would stay with Paul.

“I had to pay to board him for about a year and a half before I got a new place for us to live that allowed pets. He’s gone from being a wild street boy to a very lazy, cuddly home dog.”

Paul’s work continues to be a bright spot for those living an uncertain life. He’s been an example of compassion, kindness and generosity for hundreds of people and dogs in his area. He hopes to someday open a facility where he can home dogs who have been separated from owners who feel they have no other options but to leave them on the street.

“The dogs give these people a reason to carry on, and a lot of times, that may be the only thing. They’re a team out there; they help each other live. My goal has always been to keep them together, unless there’s abuse. I’d like to be able to reunite owners with their dogs when they’re able to have them again.”

“Many have come and gone, disappeared and reappeared from my life, but every one of these dogs has touched me and enriched my life more than words can begin to describe.”

Project Open Paw is on Facebook, and Paul posts lots of photos and videos of his dog friends. You can donate to Project Open Paw on GoFundMe – each $10 donation provides a bag of food that will feed a hungry homeless dog.

Featured Photo: Project Open Paw/Facebook


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