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Art teacher Libby Scandale (center) and her high school volunteers. (Photograph by Aric S. Queen

Greensboro’s for the Dogs

A finger, slightly dirty with chipped nail polish, pointed right at me. “How would you feel if you were chained up, your fur was covered in snow, and it was 3 degrees below zero outside?!”

Kids say the darndest things.

Except this happened to be more truth than darnd.

The student was describing the winter walk that inspired her art teacher, Libby Scandale, to found Project Bark. Scandale’s North Carolinian drawl makes words like “cold” and “night” come out with two syllables each. Her ink-stained hands, the result of 26 years in the classroom, cover her face when she talks about how, even though that dog got to go home to a warm house that night, hundreds — if not thousands — of dogs around Guilford county are still tethered to a tree in the cold (or in the sweltering summer heat). She bites her bottom lip fiercely. A few tears come anyway.

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Aerial view of a Project Bark shelter.

But this woman is no cry baby. Ever since that night, she has spent all her free time trying to find a suitable home for every abused or discarded dog that crosses her path. And, as fate would have it, help came from the most unlikely of sources: the local sheriff.

Turns out he had an idea.

55 gallon plastic drums.

The kind used for everything — oil, soy sauce, whatever. As long as it wasn’t toxic and could be cleaned by her dedicated group of volunteer high schoolers, they’d take it.

But they didn’t just take it — they ran with it. In the 16 months since Project Bark got off the ground, they’ve found homes for more than 450 pups.

I’ll do the math for you: that’s about one dog a day.

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Libby Scandale (center) and her student volunteers.

“Get a plastic drum, clean it, cut one hole in it, throw some straw and you’re set,” she said. I asked why not blankets? Because, she said, they’re cesspools for disease, and, once they’re wet, they’ll never dry. Nuff said.

It all seemed so simple.

And that’s exactly how Libby wants it, because it makes it an easy idea to steal. “We don’t just want Greensboro taken care of,” she said, smiling quietly while casting a look of adoration at her kids. “I want this to be copied around the world. And why can’t it?”

Yeah, why can’t it?

Find out more about Project Bark and about People and Paws For Hope, another great organization working to help dogs (and people) in Greensboro and beyond.