With the season of giving in full swing and the weather getting colder, many animal lovers are doing their part to help local shelters. Beyond Loudoun and the U.S., though, there’s a whole other world of animals that need attention.
Purcellville resident Sarah Jones recently started working from her temporary home in Yerevan, Armenia, during the winter to raise money to keep the city’s stray animals warm and also find them suitable homes back in the U.S. Having moved to the Eurasian nation in June to accompany her husband on a work assignment, Jones, 41, is working with The Loudoun Pet Sitting Co. to help raise $16,000 to feed the 127 dogs at Armenia’s Pawsitive Rescue animal shelter, while also raising awareness that those dogs need homes in the U.S.
“Once I arrived and saw the situation regarding homeless, injured and abandoned animals here, my heart broke and I had to do something,” she said.
Jones said that dogs in Yerevan are often put out on the streets when their owners don’t want them anymore and are stricken by the cold winter months and by cars running into them.
“There’s a huge overpopulation,” she said. “They’re everywhere—I hear them at night.”
Since moving to Armenia this summer, Jones joined Pawsitive Rescue and recently started the Project Santa Paws campaign that she’s hoping will raise enough money to provide two meals a day for the shelter’s dogs during the cold winter months. “They need the extra food to put on the extra layers,” she said.
On the adoption side, Jones is working to inform Loudoun residents that they can also adopt an Armenian dog. She said the shelter, which operates in an abandoned Soviet Army barracks, won’t allow Armenians to adopt dogs with special needs, like those missing legs, out of fear that they’ll dump them back on the streets.
Jones has raised close to $3,000 on her GoFundMe page, gofundme.com/Project-Santa-Paws, although there have yet to be any adoptions by Loudoun residents. Lysa Clemens, the owner and founder of The Loudoun Pet Sitting Co., said that she’s spreading the word about the campaign to her clients and the region at large. Her company is also prepared to make a donation of up to $1,000.
“We’re happy to do whatever we can to help,” she said. “I know the situation has got to be pretty rough in Armenia for the dogs.”
Jones’ work in Armenia isn’t the first time she’s worked to help animals. In Loudoun, she started the Pawsome Palz dog-walking and pet-sitting company in 2016 after moving from Washington, DC, to a 20-acre farm near Purcellville with her husband, Simon, and their pets.
It was then, after Jones left her marketing job in the city, that someone suggested that she walk dogs to fill up her time.
Working with animals is a family affair. Growing up, Simon lived on the property of London’s Whipsnade Zoo while his father worked as the director of the London Zoological Society. He’s also worked for the National Geographic Society, as a safari guide and with the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya and as a ranger at the North Carolina Zoo.
When Simon’s job with Solimar International required him to move to Armenia this summer, Sarah sold Pawsome Palz to The Loudoun Pet Sitting Co.
Now staying put in Yerevan until the spring, Jones is fully committed to the dogs there.
“I truly believe Virginia is for lovers and hope a few dog lovers will see it in their hearts to give a little and, who knows, maybe even fall in love with one or two of the dogs here and adopt them out,” she said.