If you don’t think every dog has a personality as unique as those of humans, chances are that you haven’t met Bob Tillay, founder of Dirk’s Fund Golden Retriever Rescue Shelter, located at 526 Indian Warpath Drive.
The shelter can house eight dogs, because it has eight outside runs, but the number has almost doubled when animals are left homeless.
This can be tricky because dogs are rotated to and from the eight indoor pens to outdoor runs so that every dog has some outdoor time.
Tillay prefers, what he calls “goldens,” because of the human-like qualities of their personalities, but admits that he can be captivated by other dogs as they react to the shelter staff.
Dirk’s Fund came into being after Tillay moved into his house in 1980 with two golden retrievers and people began to ask him if he would take another one, or two.
The first rescue dog that he took in was named Dirk, thus the name of the shelter.
Within the year he rescued Dirk, Tillay found homes for five dogs. The number has grown to 200 and Tillay remembers many of them by name as well as their adoptive families.
Large posters on the shelter family room walls include photographs of former residents of the shelter.
“We like to stick with golden retrievers because we like their personalities,” Tillay said.
But after the arrival of Diane Goode as a shelter volunteer the population there has meandered into non-golden territory.
“I’m always after Bob to take another large dog that needs a home,” Goode said. “The goldens are adopted more quickly because that’s how people find us, but eventually all our dogs are adopted.”
Goode has adopted three Dirk’s Fund golden retrievers since she came to volunteer at the shelter, but as she transports dogs from where they are abandoned to the shelter she learns of other large dogs that need help. This week she has promised to pick up a Great Pyrenees that has been abandoned and that Tillay has agreed to accept at the shelter.
When dogs come to the shelter they are given a complete physical exam and receive any medical treatment they need. They are bathed once a week and due to extensive cleaning, the shelter is as clean as a family residence, which the visitor area is designed to resemble.
Large black leather sofas face the indoor pens where dogs stay when they are inside. When visitors are in the room any dog they are interested in is let out and invited to visit.
“We call it a family room because it’s meant to be like a family room,” Tillay said.
At present there are four golden retrievers in residence: Paws, Hailey, Scarlet and Rhett; as well as Baron, a brown Labra Doodle, Sasha, a Bernese mountain dog; and Tank, a St. Bernard lab mix.
Three additional golden retrievers — Baby, Frodo and Rosie — are at the vet for some attention.
Paws, also known as the Shelter house dog, is named because of a severe injury she had on one of her paws when she was rescued. When volunteers are in the building, and when visitors are in the family room, Paws is allowed to be out of her crate. She likes human attention and will respond to anyone who touches her.
Each dog has its own 150-square-foot outdoor run, complete with a sunshade and fan.
Two large play yards, littered with soccer balls donated by The Field, located next door, are available for the dogs to run. When they are new to the shelter, they are only allowed in the play area alone.
“We have to see how they will behave with other dogs,” Goode said. “But if they get along, they can play together.”
On a recent day, Sasha was led to the outdoor play area and her leash unhooked. When Tillay walked toward her she moved away, using the outdoor pavilion as a barrier between her and Tillay. Goode suggested that they bring Scarlet, a docile, friendly golden, into the yard with Sasha to see how the two would react.
Almost immediately Sasha moved toward Scarlet and stood near her. When Scarlet moved, Sasha moved with her. Within minutes they were nuzzling each other and walking side by side.
“You never know when dogs will get along with one another,” Tillay said.
Getting along is the theme of the adoption process at Dirk’s Fund. Individuals or families who might want to adopt a dog are invited to the shelter to meet the animals. They can come back more than once and if they have another pet that a new dog would live with, they can bring that pet along to see how the two get along.
“Dogs need human contact,” Tillay said. “We want people to get to know the pet they might adopt.”
Dirk’s Fund is a 501(c)(3) that relies on adoption fees, donations and fund-raisers to operate.
The biggest need the shelter has is volunteers to do minimal cleaning and help socialize the animals.
The biggest fund-raiser is an annual trivia night, which is held at the Kirkwood Community Center.
The shelter is only open to the public on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For more information about the animals in residence or about adoption, visit the Dirk’s Fund web page at www.dirksfund.com and Facebook page.