PawsGo: Giving Back Through Operation Paws for Homes

Too many faces like this on Rescue Road trip took a toll on volunteers

PawsGo: Giving Back Through Operation Paws for Homes

By Karen Johnson

ALEXANDRIA, VA-One great thing about living in Alexandria is how dog-friendly our city is. Dogs are a wonderful connector of people and activities. Dogs also provide our residents with great opportunities to give back.

With so many breed-specific and all-breed rescues in the area, it’s easy to find a cause to support – and a dog! On any given week, you’ll see numerous events, adoption and otherwise, focused on dogs. One of the most popular is the Del Ray neighborhood’s First Thursday – Dog Days of Del Ray, which is May 2. It’s a blend of dog activities, businesses, and rescues, with dogs available for adoption.

Operation Paws for Homes (OPH) is one of the most organized and proactive of all breed rescues. Based in Alexandria, OPH brings dogs (and cats) from shelters in the rural south. Best-selling author Cara Sue Achterberg is a foster for OPH. Cara recently took a break from writing novels to chronicle her adventures in fostering for OPH in her book, Another Good Dog.

The joy in second chances

Cara coordinated her book tour for Another Good Dog with a visit to shelters that work with OPH. The tour evolved into a spring Rescue Road Trip, to bring money, supplies and human expertise to those rural shelters and a van load of dogs back to Alexandria.

On March 31, eight volunteers piled into one van and covered 1,500 miles, visiting shelters in three states. Based on volunteer accounts, the stops were both heartbreaking and inspiring. The group met with shelter staff and volunteers who save as many dogs and cats as they can, on miniscule budgets and nearly non-existent resources. When the OPH van and volunteers arrived bringing basic supplies, it was like Christmas for those over-extended rural shelters. And the dogs that made the return trip to Alexandria won the lottery for a better life!

Volunteers with some of the dogs that headed back to Northern Virginia, including Hanson (2nd from right) who was adopted by a family in Alexandria

The OPH Rescue Road trip is a glimpse of the work many rescues in our area do and the dedication of shelter workers and volunteers throughout the country. If you have a rescue dog or cat, give them a big hug. They went through a lot just to get to you. If you’re a rescue volunteer, PawsUp to you and thank you for giving countless animals a second chance.

You can support OPH and the rural shelters they assist through the popular PawsGo “rescue” shirts. Find them at From Head to Tail Grooming and Spa on Hume Avenue or online at

You can support OPH efforts by purchasing a PawsGo “rescue” shirt through the end of May – or From Head to Tail Grooming and Spa

To learn more about OPH, to donate, adopt, or volunteer, visit

Karen Johnson is the founder of PawsGo ( the Alexandria-based online community for women and their dogs, promoting an active lifestyle for both. PawsGo merchandise can be found online and locally at From Head to Tail Grooming and Spa, Bon Vivant Café and Farm Market and Reunions.

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