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Home Is Where the Bark Is

The Furry Friends no-kill shelter for dogs is open for business.

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Paige is sprawled in a chair, sun-bathing in the light from a nearby window in her new "apartment." Her pal is lying on the floor next to her even though there's a roomy couch a few feet away. The rest of their friends are in the backyard.

This might sound like a human scenario, but Paige and her buddies are dogs living in the new Furry Friends No-Kill Home for Dogs on Park Avenue near Highland. The shelter opened its doors last weekend and has four furnished pet apartments so once-homeless dogs can get used to living in a permanent home.

"During playtime, the dogs can run around and play in their apartments," says founder Susan Mah. "The only ones who get to sleep in the apartments are dogs who are already housebroken."

Dogs who aren't housebroken spend the night in the Doggie Dorm, a large room filled with crates.

Furry Friends can hold up to 20 dogs, and Mah says they're already near capacity. Many of the current tenants are dogs she's personally rescued, though some have been brought in by others. One dog just showed up on the doorstep.

A couple of dogs were brought home by prospective owners on trial runs at last Friday's grand opening. Mah allows people to take animals home for up to week before committing to adoption. It costs $75 to adopt a dog, which includes shots and spaying or neutering.

Although Mah had originally planned to take in homeless cats as well, she's currently only taking dogs.

"I'm not quite sure how to have them in same place," says Mah. "If we had a big facility, I think it would be easy to separate them, but we have a small facility, so I don't know how to do it without causing stress on the cats."

The facility at 3589 Park Avenue is about one-third the size of the building Mah had originally hoped to get. The original building on Madison was about 4,000 square feet, and she had planned to house 70 dogs.

"The guy who owned that building filed for bankruptcy so the building got tied up in court," says Mah. "Also, it was just not in our budget to buy a place."

Furry Friends relies on donations. Mah says they'll be spending about $3,000 a month on veterinary bills. There are also four paid staff members who watch the facility in shifts. Volunteers walk the dogs.

Says Mah: "The only way we'll be able to stay in business is if the community supports us."

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