DUNWOODY, Ga. — A Chamblee High School student is organizing part of Dunwoody’s Independence Day parade with shelter dogs for families to adopt and a photo booth where residents can donate to the LifeLine Animal Project.
Sophia Sparks is getting ready to earn her girl scout Gold Star this Fourth of July by helping LifeLine, which took over management of DeKalb County animal shelters, adoption programs, spay and neuter clinics and community outreach efforts in 2013. Since that time, the organization has raised the county’s adoption rates by 150 percent.
LifeLine runs DeKalb’s only animal services center, which can house up to 500 dogs at a time.
“Their whole thing is ‘Are you in?’” Sparks said. “‘Are you in to make Atlanta a no-kill community?’”
Sparks has been planning Paws on Parade since submitting her idea to the Greater Atlanta Girl Scout Council last summer. She’s been in contact with Councilwoman Pam Tallmadge, the parade organizer, since last September. Sparks has spent much of her time emailing different parties and learning the rigor of event planning.
And she’s seen LifeLine’s work up close.
“Last February my mom told me about these nine puppies that Lifeline needed to have a foster for, because puppies can’t be at the shelter when they’re that young,” she said.
She convinced her mom to let their family be the one to take care of puppies. They held onto all nine for over a month. Once they reached adoption age, they were all gone in a few days, but the Sparkses said they found it especially hard to part with the smallest, calmest puppy, Otter.
Otter, a pit bull mix, is now training to be a service dog in the Northeast, where there is actually a shortage of shelter pets, sparks said. The South has a worse problem with strays, generally.
But the puppies’ mother, Maggie, was harder to find a home for.
“When Maggie first came to us she was not looking the best,” Sparks said. “She was very stressed so she had a lot of hair loss because of the puppies.”
After a half-hearted effort to find her a new home, they decided to make Maggie part of the family.
Sparks is hoping this parade event can help bring awareness to Dunwoody with its shelter so close by.
“It’s so close,” she said. “It’s easy for people who live in Dunwoody to go to Chamblee and volunteer, foster, whatever.”
Sparks can’t actually handle the pets herself, though. One must be 18 years or older to handle the dogs, so Sparks goes with her mom, Ellen, and they volunteer together.
Paws on Parade will feature adoptable shelter dogs being walked by volunteers. Sparks is also setting up a photo booth with patriotic props to adorn patrons’ pets. People can take a picture and give a $10-$15 donation to LifeLine, Sparks said.