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Creature Comforts: The Lu Parker Project Gets Shelter Dogs Into New Beds

Villaraigosa and Parker assembling a dog bed (Nick F. Carranza / Planet Speck)
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By Nick F. Carranza/Special to LAist

For many impounded dogs, the animal shelters is the last stop on their journey between life and death. Separated by cold steel fencing and concrete floors, each dog awaits their fate. Although the dogs did nothing wrong, the quarters are similar to a jail cell. It's easy to understand why sympathetic volunteers spend so much time confronting such a grim reality.

For the past two years, KTLA's Lu Parker has been a South L.A. shelter volunteer, and often reports on animal welfare issues during her "KTLA Special Reports." Earlier this year she received the Humane Society's Genesis Award, which recognizes media and entertainment professionals for their work in raising public awareness about animal issues. As a long time animal lover, she continues to do more through her non-profit organization Lu Parker Project (LPP). "Our basic goal is to educate youth to understand that animals should be respected. By involving them in our events, we help to change the way animals are treated overall," says Parker.

Project Have-A-Heart, a Valentine's Day fundraiser, offered the community an opportunity to purchase a dog bed in exchange for a bouquet of flowers and a personalized card. Over 140 dog beds were purchased through the fundraiser allowing the South L.A. shelter one bed per dog run.

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Kim Rodgers / Bark Pet Photography
Last Saturday, members of the Lu Parker Project, with the help of over 60 volunteers, spent the morning assembling the dog beds. Fulfilling their philosophy of educating the youth, LPP invited the Bresee Foundation, a non-profit community center which services over 2,000 low income youths from all over Los Angeles. Samantha Musa, Bresee's development coordinator, said "in Bresee's 29 years of operation this is our first animal welfare event. Since one third of our kids return to become mentors, it's good to connect with outside resources."

Among the volunteers, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, screw driver in hand, said: "I started in grassroots activity, and in a time of shrinking budgets, public and private partnerships are essential to animal welfare since the city doesn't have the money to care for the animals in a way that we'd like to."

Also in attendance was the Director of L.A. Animal Services Brenda Barnette, who remarked: "Since we don't have money for these nice extras, these nice beds will help the dogs be more comfortable and help potential adopters visualize the dogs in a more home-like environment."

It was clear how important this task had become to each volunteer. As everyone worked diligently to finish all the beds, an overwhelming feeling of camaraderie filled the room. Public officials, media personalities, city workers, community and youth groups were all the same. Today they were all dog lovers. As each bed was placed in their own dog run, tails wagged in appreciation. The dogs wasted no time lunging themselves on their new beds--creature comforts well-deserved.

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Parker's still not ready for a break, having become a household name in the community, she's ready for more. "Gosh, there's so much we need to do," said Parker. "I want to focus on getting the youth more involved with our ideas. I want to raise money to fund spay and neutering. We need money to create videos that educate the youth so we can go to schools and share the joys of living with and respecting animals." Parker can likely expect a welcome mat awaiting her return.