With community programs, available rental space, a focus on shelter dogs, adoption events and animal advocacy, San Jose’s Pup Plaza is poised to be the next big thing in animal welfare.
A project of the Silicon Valley Pet Project (SVPP), which joined forces with The Dancing Cat in May 2016 to reopen the previously shuttered doors, Pup Plaza — located at the former site of Alicia’s Mexican Restaurant in San Jose — was created with a similar concept to The Dancing Cat, although adoptable dogs will not be housed on site.
“[Pup Plaza] really embodies a love for dogs and it’s a positive place,” said SVPP founder Melissa Lisbon. “It’s nice to celebrate dogs, or pets in general, and have a place to gather. We call it a dog community center.”
Within Pup Plaza, Lisbon said the organization will host free community hours that will serve as a free play for dogs or people who want to hang out with dogs. They will have commitment- and- cost-free behavioral hours for fosters and dog parents to receive advice from a certified trainer or work on specific issues their dog is having. Events like adoption events and fee-based classes like Paint Your Pup and Doga (which yoga with your dog) will also be held. Additionally, Pup Plaza can serve as a meeting and rental space for the community.
A unique feature will be the Shelter Dog Day Out program, which is a partnership between SVPP and San Jose Animal Care Center to take adoptable dogs out of the shelter environment and give them the freedom to stretch their paws and play without the confines of the shelter.
“I think the Dog Day Out program is so important because that’s something that we wanted to do,” said Lisbon. “I think that by partnering with the shelter and getting these dogs out for the day, and trying to get the community involved for short-term fostering will help them find a home. It’s a different path, but it helps the dogs.”
Inside Pup Plaza is everything a dog — and their owner could want — from a long table with chairs to serve as a workspace to synthetic grass and couches for people and their pups to relax. There are also plenty of balls for dogs to chase, an outside area to play and a small library of dog-related books to read while lounging on the couches and chairs set up throughout the space.
A focal point is the whimsical mural painted by San Jose artist Phuong-Mai “Mai” Blasich featuring some of SVPP’s current adoptables and dogs who have stolen the heart of the organization.
“We said we wanted a mural and she said ‘what’s the story?’” said Lisbon. “We kind of brainstormed it together and it was very much about what this place would signify and what it’s about, which is the love of dogs and how much joy they bring us. We wanted it happy and then we started thinking about which dogs — and it was hard — and she sketched it and then started putting them all together. It was a fun collaboration. Mai did a fabulous job. We’re so happy it turned out the way it did. It’s just fun to look at and I think it makes an impact here.”
Although Pup Plaza has only been open a few weeks and is likely a temporary space due to the pending redevelopment of the Cambrian Park Plaza Shopping Center, Lisbon and SVPP volunteers hope to get the word out about the space and that the community will latch onto the concept.
“It’s fun to try something new and see if we can impact the community in new ways, because I think in rescue we have to do more than one thing,” said Lisbon. “You have to do the rescue and the foster care and we’re always going to do that but I think until you are where people can find you, it’s more difficult. We do have appointments here for our [foster] meet and greets so it’s a neutral territory.”
“There’s not really a definite end in sight but this location will probably be a shorter term option but we’ll see what works, what doesn’t work, what we would do differently next time,” said SVPP Animal Care Manager Ellen McBriarty. “We have to start somewhere and sometimes a little Mexican restaurant is a good place to start.”
Pup Plaza is at 14408 Union Ave. in San Jose’s Cambrian Park Plaza Shopping Center. A full event list and additional information can be found at pupplaza.org.