Pennsylvania-born Sarah Wolfgang spent 16 years in South Korea working with shelters and dogs who have difficulty getting adopted. She did her research with a number of dog and cat cafés, but was dismayed to discover their furry residents reign from puppy mills and do little to help the country’s millions of homeless pets.
That’s why—when Wolfgang settled in Los Angeles—she decided to open America’s first and only dog café.
Since December, The Dog Café has held a soft opening in which visitors enter at their leisure and chill with a group of adoptable pups. They also enjoy a beverage that gives back to dogs in need. Wolfgang tells BarkPost:
It’s a spin on the dog & cat cafes in other countries, but ours is unique in that our dogs are all in need of homes, and only stay with us until they’re adopted. Our mission is to pull abandoned dogs who are being overlooked at shelters and place them in a happier environment where visitors can see them in their true light.
One of these dogs is Junior, a distinguished older gentleman who began his adoption journey at the café but who is not very patient with the younger whippersnappers. Junior was originally brought to a shelter as a bonded pair with his younger terrier sibling. When the little dog was pulled by a rescue without him, the white-muzzled Boxer mix found himself with a much slimmer chance of finding a home.
As per Ms. Wolfgang, “[Junior is] extremely friendly and affectionate. He likes to greet us by standing on his hind legs and putting his front paws on us to say hi, and it’s just the sweetest greeting.” Though he’s 8 years old, this boy loves a good hike and space to run. He’s got a “great attitude” and the personality of a pup, and while some have suggested she return Junior, Wolfgang says she wouldn’t consider that in a million years.
The Dog Café aims to “revolutionize dog adoption by reinventing the way people connect with rescues,” according to the shop’s official press release. It’s a complete 180 approach to traditional shelters. There are no kennels in sight, no issues associated with overcrowding, and the relaxed atmosphere eliminates undesirable behaviors often expressed by stressed shelter dogs.
On the other paw, it’s also a great way for dog lovers to kick back with pups even if they’re not ready for a dog of their own.
Many four-legged Dog Café residents have found amazing homes thanks to the unique “shelter” environment. Snorlax (now Potato) quickly found her forever family as the shop’s resident puppy.
But these eager canines aren’t just handed out with your cup o’ joe. In fact, the adoption process is anything but lax. Wolfgang explains that it all begins with a casual meet-and-greet with the dogs to see which is best suited to your lifestyle. Potential adopters then have a mini-interview and receive an adoption application—this way they can really decide whether they’re ready for the lifetime commitment.
After they submit the application, an adoption coordinator does a “mini home check” on the same day they drop off the pup. The family gets to do a “trial run” for a couple of weeks to be certain this is the dog for them, and then finalizes the adoption. Wolfgang says:
The whole adoption process from start to finish can take up to 1 month. We understand to some that this may be a lengthy process, but to us it helps us ensure each dog that we place in a new home is going to their perfect forever home.
To avoid surrenders back to the café or a less-than-perfect home life for these highly deserving dogs, the extra effort goes a long way. “The first Dog Cafe in America,” says Wolfgang, pending the establishment’s grand opening on April 7, “will serve as a venue for humans to indulge in their love of dogs, while at the same time, bettering and saving the lives of many of our nation’s canine residents.”
If you’re in the LA area and have an intense craving for caffeine and canines, check out The Dog Café at 240 N. Virgil Ave. The shop’s hours post-grand opening will be Tuesday–Sunday, 11 A.M.–7P.M. $10 per human per hour gets you a complimentary drink (or discount on specialty beverages) and a whole lotta puppy love. For more info on reservations, click on over to the Dog Café’s website!