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Pup Plaza Is a Community Center for Pups and Peeps

Community members who stroll past Pup Plaza sometimes pop in the door, when calm and quiet prevail in between activities and ask, “What is this place?”

We love the interest and are genuinely thrilled to have the visitors. It’s how we have started to create a heartbeat around this location and endeavor. Pup Plaza isn’t a shelter or doggie day care. It’s a community center for dogs, humans who love them, and people who want to foster or adopt them. It is a mission-driven space intended to help unite the community behind our goal of rescuing at-risk pets and reducing pet homelessness through fostering, adoption, and rewarding pet guardianship.

Pup Plaza is an initiative launched by Silicon Valley Pet Project in October 2018. It is in a newly remodeled space at a charming older strip mall in the Cambrian Park area of San Jose. Volunteers who helped transform the 1,400-square-foot space, previously a restaurant, created two large and open rooms, furniture for people, mats and toys for dogs, a one-of-a kind beautiful mural of rescued dogs, and a spacious fenced-in patio.

SVPP operated as a remote rescue organization for its first three years — like most rescues do. The organization partnered with the San Jose Animal Care Center to take in and foster at risk-pets, meaning those needing extra medical care or not finding a forever home within the shelter system due to stress, anxiety, or an addressable behavioral issue. The partnership grew and so did the number of rescues. By the end of 2018, SVPP had rescued more than 1,050 dogs and cats from the San Jose shelter.

Even with that momentum, the group discovered that having a brick-and-mortar location could provide some amazing opportunities to work with, engage, and support the community — a model necessary to sustain these life-saving efforts.

During any given day at Pup Plaza, you will find activities ranging from educational to inspirational to fun — programs and projects not possible without a physical space. • On Saturdays, we have adoption events for pets in our foster program looking for a forever home.

• On Mondays, shelter dogs spend the day at Pup Plaza for rest, respite, and love as part of our Shelter Dogs Day Out program. We recently achieved a milestone of hosting 100 shelter dogs in just six months since we established this program with the San Jose Animal Care Center.

• Every Tuesday, we offer community hours so that dog lovers can hang out with other dog lovers and ask questions about their pets, fostering, and adopting.

• On Wednesday nights, community members can participate in a Training Meet Up. This casual, free session allows for great interaction between pet owners and a certified dog trainer. We discuss common behavioral issues, demonstrate how to teach basic commands, and help owners and their dogs create more harmony at home.

• Twice a month on Sunday mornings, we host Doga (dog yoga). During this guided yoga practice, the instructor helps participants bond with, reward, and breathe with their dogs.

We offer other special activities and services, and the events list is getting longer. We are offering a Fostering 101 class, as well as a low-cost Microchip Clinic. We host occasional “Paint Your Pet” and pet photography sessions. We will even reserve the space for pet owners wanting to celebrate a dog birthday or pet adoption anniversary on site. During the height of kitten season, in spring and summer, we host kitten adoption events twice a month. Our Bow Wow Film Festival in June at the Pruneyard was a fundraiser to help us subsidize these activities.

To date, Pup Plaza has allowed us to make progress toward our mission and goals. We are able to better serve the community. We are expanding our number of foster families and increasing dog adoptions. We are supporting pet owners who want to have more rewarding relationships with their canine companions. We are working to make life better for pets in transition — while waiting for their forever families. And we have started to engage the community in the fundamental idea that animal welfare needs to be a sustained and long-term endeavor.

The space we have now is a pop-up. The charming older strip mall is slated for future development in the next 18 months. But given what we have learned there, along with the momentum we have gained and the positive impact we are experiencing, our goal is to have a more permanent space — a pet community center where we can support dogs and cats, their owners, humans who love them, and people who want to foster or adopt them.

Karen Zamel is a senior communications professional, animal lover, and a longtime volunteer for Silicon Valley Pet Project. She provides media relations and marketing support to the organization.

Shelter Zone features a shelter and rescue group each month. If you would like to contribute, contact 

Main article photo by: Photos courtesy Pup Plaza