Paws in the Panhandle

A retired IT professional makes it her new passion and priority to rescue homeless pets and find them forever homes.

Brownie was the kind of dog who liked to walk his humans. He was 60 or 70 pounds of chocolate-colored mutt, as stalwart as an ox, and completely unaware of his own strength. Living inside a 10-foot by 10-foot kennel at a local animal shelter, he was bursting with energy. Brownie yearned to run free, and he pounced on the opportunity (and on the volunteers who came by the shelter to walk him) at every chance he got. Unfortunately, that’s just the type of behavior that prevented him from being adopted; no one wanted to take home an unruly canine.

When I first started walking Brownie, I knew my work was cut out for me. He was uncontrollable, that dog! One time, he literally pulled me to the ground and I ended up scraping my knees. But he was full of love. Really, he just needed a forever home. So I worked with Brownie intensely for several weeks, training him how to let humans walk him (and not the other way around). Eventually, his behavior began to improve. And before I knew it, he finally got his forever home.

We work with volunteers around the region who help care for and, when needed, train (homeless dogs and cats) so that they are obedient and well-behaved for their future humans.

But Brownie was one of the lucky ones. That same year, 24,000 other animals across three counties in my area of South Carolina were euthanized at our local county “shelters.” Why? Because there was nowhere else for these homeless cats and dogs to go—not enough sanctuaries to keep them alive and well cared-for until a family could adopt them for good. The worst part, I came to learn, is that so many of these animals didn’t even have the behavioral problems that Brownie did; most of them were sweet, docile, and affectionate creatures that did nothing wrong. They were simply abandoned at the whim of owners who became bored, impatient, or indifferent to the responsibilities of pet ownership.

The problem was systemic. People needed to be educated about what it means to adopt and own a pet: what the responsibilities are, how to train a pet to be obedient, how to squash bad behavior early on so it doesn’t become a permanent problem. They needed to be made aware that animals are not like pieces of seasonal wardrobe that can be worn for a few weeks and then returned for something more fashionable. And on top of that, there were thousands of innocent furry faces awaiting a death sentence in our county pounds that deserved another chance—that needed to be rescued.

That’s when I decided to launch Paws in the Panhandle. Our long-term goal is to build a no-kill animal sanctuary to rescue dogs and cats from area pounds and “shelters,” protecting them from untimely and unnecessary euthanasia. We work with volunteers around the region who help care for and, when needed, train the animals so that they are obedient and well-behaved for their future humans. We also thoroughly screen potential adopters to ensure that the pets, once adopted, won’t be given up again.

Right now, our volunteers serve as foster families, taking the animals into their own homes for care and training until we identify an adoptive family. However, once our new facility—designed by Perkins+Will—is constructed, we will have a place to call our own for boarding and caring for the animals. We will have space for volunteers to socialize the animals, train them, and teach them basic life skills, like how to walk on a leash (as I did with Brownie all those years ago). The facility will also serve as a warm, welcoming venue for hosting adoption drives, spurring a greater number of adoptions and, as a result, saving a greater number of our furry friends’ lives.

It was such a pleasure working with Perkins+Will to design our sanctuary. True animal lovers, they listened attentively to our needs, saw our vision clearly, and then masterfully brought it to life through design. They even helped us navigate the pricing stage and contractor negotiations, something we had no prior experience with. We are so grateful that they poured their hearts into this project without expecting or getting anything in return—just the peace of mind that, once built, our animal sanctuary will save the lives of innocent cats, dogs, kittens, puppies, and other deserving pets all around South Carolina. Pets just like Brownie. We can’t wait to finally be able to break ground on the project and get construction underway once and for all.


Paws in the Panhandle


Indian Land, South Carolina


To rescue adoptable animals that have found themselves in high kill shelters.


Fundraising Stage


Gloria Davey, Founder and Executive Director