We’ve always appreciated Virginia Woof Dog Daycare on the sole basis of its cute name (we love a good pun), but didn’t know much about it beyond that. We stopped by the other day and spent some time with all of the pups and director David Stone, and realized that this nonprofit dog daycare is way more than just a clever name. Virginia Woof, which opened in 2005, is owned and operated by Outside In. It is the first and only business in the nation that uses dog daycare and boarding as a business model for training homeless and at-risk youth. They also have professional managers and dog trainers on staff, providing a high-level of care to dogs of all kinds (they have no breed restrictions). So not only are your beloved canines in the most excellent hands while you’re away, but you are also helping disadvantaged youth gain invaluable skills and experience that will lead them to a more promising future. We’d say that’s a win-win!
E+E: Tell us a little bit more about the youth that work here.
David Stone: When they come to Outside In, there’s an ERC (Employment Resource Center), where youth can become self-sustainable by either earning their GED or looking into employment options. If they get a voucher from the ERC that says they’re good candidates, I will interview them and put them through orientation, which is a two-week probationary period. If we like what we see, then we hire them and they stay here for 6 weeks and we pay them. At the end of that, it’s possible they can stay on for an internship, but usually they end up going back to the ERC and work on next steps like further education or employment. Virginia Woof is stepping stone as opposed to an end result.
E+E: What kinds of skills do the youth learn while working here?
DS: We’re certified by the Bureau of Labor and Industries as a job-training program because we have 5 criteria that the youth must meet in their self-evaluation process. The first is general workplace skills; showing up to work on time and following instructions, policies and procedures. The second is interpersonal; working with coworkers, problem-solving. The third is specifically related to canine; learning the trade and skill, how well and how fast they pick up working with the dogs. The fourth is basic office skills; filing, data entry, answering phones, light computer work. The last one is customer service; interacting with customers and developing that rapport. We feel that all of those 5 areas are transferrable skills that they can take with them to any workplace.
E+E:We love a good story at E+E. Does any particular youth stand out in your mind?
DS: Yes, his name is Joey. He came to us after making some poor decisions and had been through a lot. He went through the job-training program, then got an internship with us, and then we hired him. He currently is a closing manager here, and he may end up with a job at the main Outside In agency. To me, that’s a success story; taking someone from the job training program and actually moving them into a position where they can help incoming youth by sharing their life experience and showing them that getting a job is possible. We’ve had 145 youth come through the program; we’ve only hired 7 of them, and 3 of them are still employed with us, and I’d say he’s the most successful candidate.
E+E: Besides the youth training program, what sets you apart from all the other dog daycares in Portland?
DS: We have access to a certified dog trainer, and one of our managers is also a certified dog trainer, so I feel that our philosophy in working with the dogs has a lot of credibility and professionalism behind it. It’s not just like “We think this is a good idea!” We use best practices endorsed by agencies. There’s a high level of training going on here, so everyone’s always up-to-date, and we’re always trying to improve on what’s been done. We’re professional on both sides; the youth social service side and also the dog side. We give people an opportunity to give back to the community while we’re taking good care of their dogs, and that’s why a lot of people come to us. Our eastside location recently closed, but we brought 15 or 20 of those customers with us, because we’re a division of Outside In and they wanted to support that mission, even if it’s not that convenient for them to come over here.
Virginia Woof Dog Daycare
1520 West Burnside St.
Portland, OR 97209
Written by: Lauren Kodiak