How is it that even when you’re snuggled on the couch, your very own adopted pup happily watching Animal Planet from your lap, the opening notes of a Sarah McLachlin song—You know the one. Don’t even dare hum it—still manage to make you burst into tears? The ad's heartbreaking images of cold, concrete floors, metal cages, and literal puppy dog eyes would make any animal lover long to do more to help. It’s exactly that feeling that made Danielle Eden and Rob Scheinberg, lifelong rescue advocates, decide to do give up their more traditional jobs, in theater and business respectively, pick up fifty rural acres an hour outside of Toronto, and build a truly one-of-a-kind sanctuary from the ground up. And it’s that lingering image that made them want to decorate the place in a style that was the exact opposite of melancholy.
"Designing [Dog Tales] was truly a dream challenge," says Eden, who, along with her husband, donated all of the decor (All public donations go directly to care of the animals.) "Because of the nature of the space I was able to be bold and take risks in ways that are more difficult when decorating a home." Cobalt blue upholstered settees in a play area, banana leaf–print wallpaper in a powder room, and woven hanging chairs in the guest lounge are just a few of the standouts. While the sanctuary is the permanent residence of many animals—including seventy horses, four pigs, a calf, a donkey, a mule, and several bunnies housed in numerous outbuildings—the centerpiece of the compound is without a doubt the 9,000-square-foot kennel. Each of the structure's 100 glass-doored boarding rooms is decorated in a different style with everything from sculpted-iron doggy daybeds to repurposed antiques and gilded mirrors. The furnishings chosen by Eden, an amateur design lover, are made up almost entirely of antique finds, scouted at flea markets and online. "I wanted to create a luxurious, comfortable, and decorated environment that would contrast the idea of the stark shelter that we have grown accustomed to," she says.
Of course the pups themselves aren't too picky about the decor. As Media Director Clare Forndran explains, the importance of the uplifting environment has more to do with the adopting families. Instead of being greeted by solemn animals in cramped spaces, families meet happy, free-roaming dogs in beautiful rooms. "Because of that, they're willing to come back week after week without feeling emotionally drained," she says. And the homey comforts don't end there. Weekly open houses take place in a second stately building known as the pavilion, a sprawling dining room filled with elegant seating areas and playful accents. It's a welcoming place for visitors to get to know all the potential adoptees and grab a coffee and snacks prepared by a chef, or warm up after a trial walk around the bucolic grounds. As Eden puts it,"all animals deserve nothing but the best, and I wanted our rescue to feel like a home before the home."
In just under a year of existence, the organization has found new homes for 350 dogs from all over the world, and taken in animals that are deemed undesirable by other shelters because of medical or behavioral issues. If we cant find a home for a dog we are their home," explains Forndran. It's a sentiment that's made for an undeniably special place, both aesthetically and emotionally.