DETROIT—Detroit has dogs. Real deal, dogs. Rampant. Feral. Abused. Baited. Sick. Injured. Lonely. And, yes, cute.
With more than 50,000 roaming the streets of Detroit, the issue is not just a humane one but also of public safety and health. Along with the abused and abandoned, there are also dogs that are owned and loved but their owners are unable to afford to properly care for them, and feral dogs that are not ready for adoption but hungry and cold. The needs of these dogs in the city can be quite overwhelming.
Dog Aide, a teeny, newly licensed Michigan non-profit that aims to help each of those special cases, considers itself a community awareness program. They aren’t interested in competing with existing shelters and rescues, but rather, filling in the gaps that exist within the existing dog rescue community.
“We don’t have kennels, we don’t have our own facility but we have a lot of other things to provide,” Dog Aide Co-Founder, Jen Clarkson, explains. Dog Aide's mission is to educate dog owners, identify needs of communities, supply owners with food and daily care items, provide access and financial help for routine veterinary care, and network with rescues and community organizations to help people get the food and financial assistance they need.
The Dog Aide team, comprised of 46 team members, work together to fulfill the needs of the dog-in-need community. Since all the aides have day jobs, they tag team responsibilities, distress calls and the occasional stray dog that needs a temporary home.
Often times, with a trunk full of supplies, food and treats, they patrol areas that are dense with strays, in between their other job and family duties.
If they find, save or obtain a stray dog, they have it checked for parasites, worms or other health issues and properly treated by one of their vets.
After the dog is on the right health track, a home is the next priority. “Our spouses have gotten used to the visual of us coming home with a new dog,” Clarkson says.
During the past year, Dog Aide has successfully placed over 188 dogs and puppies.
It’s not just domesticated and abandoned dogs that are the focus but feral ones as well. Team members also have a feeding schedule for places they know feral dogs gather, mostly junkyards on the west side of town.
“A feral dog will never attack you. They stay away from you,” Clarkson says.
Winter provides a harsh reality for some of these dogs as well but Dog Aide does everything possible to prevent the extreme from happening like figuring out where the dogs may be sleeping and making beds out of hay for them to keep warm.
Dog Aide’s commitment isn’t just to man’s lovable four-legged best friend but people, too. “Good dog owners are hard to come by and when you find a good family without the means to give their animal the proper care, why not help them?”
The Garza family of Southwest Detroit is a prime example of how Dog Aide can help in the community. When a neighbor left behind a neglected dog and the team came in to save him, the Garza’s asked if they could take the dog in. Almost a year later, the Garza’s have nursed, not only that dog back to health, but a new one as well.
This is because Dog Aide has in’s with veterinarians and kennels. “We are given very good deals on medicine and examinations,” Clarkson says.
Access to affordable medicine is important when they rescue a dog, and it affords Dog Aide the opportunity to assist financially struggling pet owners who have a sick dog, like the Garza’s. They provide food and sometimes medicine or vitamins for families that can’t afford it.
Dog Aide has been around for just about a year and has grown immensely. Their grassroots approach to funding and executing their mission has proved to be beneficial and rewarding.
Big thanks to Jen Clarkson, Alexis Richards, Melissa Borden and the Garza family for allowing me the opportunity to tag along and experience all the good that Dog Aide does for dogs in the city.