More wags, more whiskers for Reach Rescue
Paul Burkey of Libertyville (left) and his sons (from left) Daniel, 13, Luke, 18, and Seth, 16, check out a beagle Boston terrier mix named Buster for possible adoption at Whiskers and Wags in Mundelein. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:26AM
MUNDELEIN — Opening the retail shop Whiskers and Wags and was a risk for local animal rescue group Reach Rescue.
A year later, the group is taking another risk by expanding into the neighboring rental unit.
Reselling donated furniture, shirts, toys and household items (all animal themed) in a retail strip mall at the corner of Route 176 and Midlothian Road was designed to fundraise while also putting the group’s humanitarian efforts into the public eye.
Every Saturday, all of the dogs and cats the group has in area foster homes are brought to the store for adoption drives.
Cindy Geers, Reach Rescue’s executive director, said groups like PAWS and Save a Pet are successful because their animals and mission have been brought to the consumers’ everyday life.
Smaller rescue groups, Geers said, struggle because the dogs and cats spend most of their time in a private house, leaving ideological marketing as the only way to attract potential adopters.
“In our first year, we had 225 dogs and about 50 cats get adopted,” Geers said. “Those are great numbers. This resale shop has helped us save so many more cats and dogs.”
Most of the animals Reach Rescue work with come from shelters in southern Illinois.
“The volume of cats and dogs being found stray or taken from abusive situations is incredibly high,” said Susan Solin, Reach Rescue’s director of foster care. “I can’t imagine how heartbreaking it is for those downstate agencies that have to put down healthy animals just because they’re unwanted. It must be an absolutely awful job.”
Those “kill shelters” notify rescue groups before euthanizing dogs and cats, and the animals will often be saved and transported to the Chicago-area for adoption.
Whiskers and Wags’ original storefront is 4,000 square feet and devoted mostly to receiving donated items and reselling them, with proceeds going toward veterinary needs.
The additional 2,900 square feet will include a dog adoption center, daycare and training area.
Reach Rescue has on average about 40 dogs and 15 cats up for adoption at any given time – all of which live in nearby foster homes.
With the additional space at the Whiskers and Wags store, foster parents will bring the animal to the store to meet prospective adopters in a neutral setting. Also, foster families that need a break can bring their dogs or cats to the store for up to a day.
Geers also hopes to start training classes for recently adopted animals while they transition into their new homes.
“With beautiful animals in the store, we hope more customers will fall in love and take one home,” Geers said.
Renting the neighboring storefront is risky because the group has two major needs it should be addressing – a sign for its store and more foster homes.
“Something we desperately need is a sign outside our store,” Geers said. “A sign that meets our landlord and village requirements costs $5,000, and we can’t see ourselves spending that much money over animals right now. It seems crazy to run a store without a main sign.”
Solin said most dogs get adopted within a week of being brought to Mundelein. With more foster homes, she said more animals could be saved.
“The store has brought in so many curious people who end up adopting or making generous donations,” Solin said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the time or money to campaign for more foster homes.”
Reach Rescue is a nonprofit organization with 35 volunteers. Geers is its only employee. For more information, call Reach Rescue at 847-637-5661.