The road to Woofstock began 10 years ago in the freezer room at the Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County’s animal shelter.
At the time, Jim Dugan had been volunteering at the shelter for three months, cleaning pens and washing animals.
One night Dugan left the building through the freezer, where euthanized dogs and cats were stored before being incinerated.
“I was standing in the freezer, looking at carcasses of dead animals stacked like firewood,” Dugan said. “There were three pallets of them, stacked three or four feet high.”
“I had to do something,” he said.
Woofstock, Tacoma’s annual animal-adoption festival, is one result of Dugan’s epiphany. The festival, which has grown steadily for the past six years, is the signature event of Tacoma’s Dugan Foundation, started by Dugan and his wife, Julie, in 2003.
The Dugan Foundation assists other nonprofit organizations that care for homeless animals and promotes “no-kill” policies in all communities.
“We founded it with the single goal of ending the killing of healthy, homeless companion animals,” Dugan said.
At Saturday’s festival, held on the University of Puget Sound campus, animal-welfare organizations from throughout the state brought about 150 homeless animals – mostly dogs but also cats, rabbits and ferrets – to meet prospective families.
More than 100 of the animals found new homes.
That number is more impressive when you consider Woofstock’s long-term success rate.
The two-dozen organizations that brought animals to the event included county Humane Societies and private rescue groups, such as Valhalla Canine Rescue in Graham and Collar of Hope in Kitsap County.
All have adoption standards designed to discourage impulsive decisions and establish lasting relationships. Over the past several years, Dugan said, Woofstock has maintained a success rate that’s close to 100 percent.
At Saturday’s event, Eleanor Aposporos, 7, of Seattle, could not have been more certain about her choice. She hugged an 8 ½-week-old Pomeranian-Wheaten terrier to her chest while her mom filled out the paperwork.
“I like that he’s really cuddly and really playful,” Eleanor said. “He’s just really sweet and would be a really good friend for my other dog, Nelly.”
Nelly has been lonely since the family lost its other dog, Max, Eleanor explained.
“We just needed a friend – a boy dog to maybe cheer her up a little,” she said.
Tanya and Matt Knannlein, of West Seattle, came to Woofstock with their son Baxter, 12, and daughter Zoe, 9, after looking for the right dog for several months.
At the second booth they visited, they found the puppy they wanted, a black lab mix.
“It just felt right,” Tanya said. “It was love at first sight.”
The Dugan Foundation also organizes the Fur Ball, a fundraiser that raised $25,000 at the Tacoma Art Museum last year, and Happy Howlidays, a Christmas event that gathers donations for shelters and other animal-welfare organizations around the state.
Read more about the Dugan Foundation on its website, www.duganfoundation.org.