Raising awareness for those dogs discriminated against, perhaps against their prime, and those who need special emotional or physical shelter accommodations…
The RAD Girls Club is a rescue-based initiative founded and run by Katie Falcone and Chelsea Edson. The girls decided to dedicate their free time finding second chances for rescue dogs across New England, and encouraging people across the remainder of the country to carry out their RAD mission.
The RAD Girls Club believes that dogs and humans alike deserve a second chance at a better life. Their organization is dedicated to raising awareness for discriminated breeds, senior dogs, and dogs who need special emotional or physical accommodations. Although they are not a physical shelter, their approach is unique. The girls volunteer at shelters, within local foster networks, and take dogs out for the day on hikes to soak in the Vermont wilderness. Some of the dogs have never seen the woods, have never felt snow, have never even been off a line; RAD Girls Club gives them this opportunity.
Their mission is to educate the public, to see and perceive these dogs without the stigma that comes with the shelters. Social media plays a huge role in generating awareness to their cause and the adoptable dogs. Through photography and video, people are able to see each dog’s kind and playful spirit, normally impossible to witness during a shelter visit.
The girls are supported by a community of makers, rescue advocates, and small businesses that possess the same goal as they: put some good out into the world and bring people and dogs together in a way that saves them both. Every homeless dog has a perfect family waiting for them, regardless of any “negative” characteristics that has defined them in the past. Every dog has a story, and the RAD Girls provide the voice for those animals who can’t speak for themselves, and encourage men and women across the country to become RAD advocates.
How the RAD girls club came to be…
We first bonded over our own rescue dogs; if it weren’t for our dogs being there when we had no one else, we don’t know where we’d be. Both of us came to the realization that we wanted to focus our energy on helping animals who couldn’t help themselves. We wanted to create something we were passionate about, that also gave us freedom to be creative within our own means. Because of our own experiences with our dogs, we started to become aware of how many people could benefit from rescuing a dog. When we started volunteering at the shelter we realized we had a unique chance to facilitate symbiotic relationships between dogs and humans, and do so in a way that incorporated our love for art, nature, creating community ties, empowering women, and collaborating with creative local businesses. RAD girls took off in so many amazing directions from there.
What opportunities have you been able to create for dogs in need?
Most importantly, the opportunity to highlight a dog as just that: a dog, not a “shelter dog”. We’ve learned that a lot of groups tend to highlight the negative aspects of dogs in the shelters. Most of the photos we come across on the internet are dogs in cages, looking extremely sick or abused. While this type of propaganda does pull at people’s heartstrings, we choose to spin in the other way and highlight the positives. We’ve never gotten to fully know a dog until we remove them from the cage and peel away the negative stigma that sadly comes with the shelter environment. Most people don’t take into consideration that these dogs have recently been displaced; they’re anxious and scared. A lot of dogs wind up in the shelter due to divorce, death, or home displacement, and other dogs wind up in the shelter because they are strays, had issues their family couldn’t handle, or are too expensive to be cared for. Each dog is different, yet each is the same: petrified and looking for a home. We like to create a fresh perspective through our social media to highlight the beauty in taking a dog from the shelter and getting them out in all the glory that Vermont has to offer. We’ve also done work to raise money for heartworm treatments, surgeries, and medicines which we’re able to donate to our local shelters. We’ve really been able to rely on our creative community and friends to help us hold concerts, parties, and fundraisers to help advocate for the shelters and foster networks we work with.
Tell us about your most rewarding experience. Your greatest challenge?
Each time we meet a dog is a rewarding experience. Looking at their sweet faces in the shelter and knowing we have an opportunity to make a difference is something we look forward to each time we go. We work with one amazing foster “parent,” Aislinn Doyle, and each of the dogs that have come through her door have been so special to us. Her first dog was Mileena, a seven-year-old Staffordshire terrier mix who was dog reactive and needed a really patient special home. We took Mileena everywhere, and after she was featured on Susie’s Senior Dogs, she found an incredible home in Connecticut. The first dog we ever fundraised for, Mookie, had aggressive heartworm and we were able to donate enough to get him pulled from his kill shelter in Georgia, and bring him to VT. Aislinn ended up adopting him. Her second foster Mitch was in a boarding facility and then in the NYCACC for nearly two years, practically forgotten. He was a gem of a dog but with his “pitbull” appearance and bouncy personality he had a difficult time finding a home. Months of networking later, Mitch landed a great home with kids and big yard, right where he was always meant to be. All the dogs we’ve worked with hold a special place in our hearts.
Our greatest challenge was a beautiful Rednose Pitbull Terrier named Xander. He was a gorgeous dog but extremely aggressive with other dogs and some people. He was big and loud but, over time, we got to know him well enough that he would sit in our laps and wiggle when we came to see him. Xander started to waste away in the shelter and grew sicker and more anxious as time went on. We fundraised all we could but Xander ended up passing away in the shelter before we could pull him. It was a devastating way to see a dog spend the final months of his short life, but it gave us some peace knowing we did what we could to help him feel some comfort.
Do you believe you CAN you teach an old dog new tricks?
We’re not exactly sure if you can change a dog completely, but we know that pulling them from the shelter is the first step in really seeing a dog open up and let its personality shine. We don’t think it’s ever too late for a dog to re-learn to trust, even if in the smallest amount, but we do believe that all dogs have the capacity to save people. We know that dogs bring people together in the best possible ways and that rescuing a dog can save not only their life, but yours as well. We’re living proof of that.
How can folks help? Can you share a list of shelters for people to contact?
Anyone can become a RAD Girl ambassador. We urge people to look up their local shelters and volunteer. Whether it’s taking a dog for a quick walk, spending a few hours with them on a hike, or even just sitting with them in their kennel and giving them one-on-one attention, any moment spent with a shelter dog is valuable. Another way is to post them online, show people photos; you never know who is looking to add a member to their family. We have a PayPal account on our website — donations go to some of our favorite local shelters and foster networks that help pull dogs from high-risk situations and put them straight into homes, bypassing the shelter for the health and well-being of the dog. We urge anyone to contribute to their local shelters or our cause to help these amazing dogs. Sharing your personal successful rescue stories or sharing your friends rescue story is equally as important to the movement as well. Don’t forget to tag the RAD Girls in your #RADgirlrescue stories — and your day trips with local shelters pups — so we can repost on our social media channels!
Favorite breed of dog?
We love any breed that loves you unconditionally. We tend to rally for discriminated breeds so we find ourselves with a lot of “pitbull mixes” — American Staffordshire Terriers, shepherd mixes, etc. We’ve met Golden Retrievers who have bitten people in the same cages next to pitbulls who have never hurt a fly. We’re trying to change the way people think about breeds and erase the stigmas associated. Every dog is an individual, regardless of their breed. We love them all!
What does the word FREE mean to you?
We’re lucky to live in a country where we have everyday freedoms. Our FREE is a place where all genders, humans of any color, and dogs of any breed can coexist peacefully without judgment or discrimination. We are working towards erasing the negative connotations given to shelter dogs, and give them the redemption they deserve. Every dog and human deserves to be free from anything in the past that has held them back, and we’re using our voice to provide that for animals who can’t. We hope to inspire people to break free and live their greatest life — preferably with a rescue dog riding shotgun.