The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


North Texas No-Kill Animal Shelter Opens New Big-Breed Dog Kennel

SMU student Skylar Kelsven dotes on one of the pups in Bear’s Den.

SMU student Skylar Kelsven dotes on one of the pups in Bear’s Den.

It used to be that the dogs at Operation Kindness in Carrollton were crammed in small rooms. Today, the pups have spacious new digs: a 2,000 square foot brick building with a private courtyard that would have any dog howling.

North Texas’ oldest and largest no-kill animal shelter recently opened its new kennel exclusively for large dogs. The new building, called Bear’s Den, will allow Operation Kindness to save an additional 600 dogs each year. The new addition has increased capacity for small dogs by 50 percent by making room in the smaller kennels.

Donor Norma Carney made Bear’s Den a reality for the shelter, donating $250,000 for the expansion. Carney wanted to help the shelter after she and her husband adopted their Great Pyrenees, Bear, from Operation Kindness eight and a half years ago.

“I wanted to make it possible to save more large dogs and Operation Kindness wanted to expand their dog area so it was meant to happen,” Carney said in an interview.

Unlike most shelter kennels, Bear’s Den has an open and welcoming atmosphere. The new building houses 30 state-of-the-art dog runs and includes large glass garage doors that open to an outdoor play yard.

SMU student Skylar Kelsven loves dogs, especially the larger breeds. She immediately noticed the kennel’s unique ambiance when she visited the shelter on the opening weekend of Bear’s Den.

“I thought it had a really nice atmosphere that gave those big dogs enough space to live in and run around in outside, but I thought it was most amazing that it didn’t have the type of cold, sterile atmosphere that most dog kennels have. It seemed more calm and relaxed,” Kelsven said.

The shelter can now care for an average of 280 dogs and cats on a daily basis, with another 60 to 80 animals in foster homes. Last year, almost 3,000 animals were adopted from Operation Kindness.

As a no-kill shelter, no animals are euthanized in order to make room for another, so the shelter has to turn away about 80 percent of the animals brought in.

While Bear’s Den will increase the shelter’s capacity for dogs, they can only take in as many animals as they adopt out.

Cat lover Jill Cohn was in need of a feline fix after her own cats died about eight years ago. Adopting a new cat was not an option, so she decided to volunteer in the cat rooms at Operation Kindness instead. Cohn loves socializing with the cats and getting to know their personalities.

“Because it’s a no-kill shelter, they’re going to be here until they’re adopted. So if you can get them socialized to where they can come out and [interact], then people will adopt them,” Cohn said.

Since Operation Kindness is a nonprofit organization, they do not receive any government funding and are always looking for donations. All of their income comes from donations, adoptions, fund-raising activities and pet-related merchandise.

The shelter also strongly depends on their 700 active volunteers and foster parents. Volunteers help seven days a week, 365 days a year, and must be at least six years of age.

“We rely on volunteers to help us give the animals a little extra love,” Development Director Nikki Walker said.

Big breed dog fans are sure to get their “fur fix” when they volunteer in Bear’s Den.

Prospective volunteers must fill out a volunteer application and submit two letters of reference. Once accepted, candidates are required to attend a mandatory two-hour training session.

“I can have a bad day and come up here and when I leave I feel great,” volunteer Valerie Spott said.

The shelter offers a wide variety of volunteer activities, ranging from kennel work to publicity. Volunteers are matched with the work that meets their interests and skills.

For Trish Barnard, volunteering at Operation Kindness is a two-way street. Not only does it serve as an escape from hectic everyday life, but Barnard also thinks that the animals can teach people a lot about patience, tolerance and how to bounce back from a bad situation.

Many of the dogs are abused, injured, or emotionally damaged when they come to the shelter, including those that will be staying in the Den, but before you know it, they are happy and their tails are wagging.

“You learn a lot from these guys,” she said. “You come out here, there’s no phone, no computer, no TV; it’s peaceful. You’re helping the animals,” Barnard said.

To learn more about Bear’s Den and how to help the animals at Operation Kindness, visit

The new 2,000 square foot brick building exclusively for large dogs is named after Bear, a Great Pyrenees adopted from Operation Kindness.

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