Grand Opening: Brynne Smith Memorial Campus


Writer Katherine Braden

In the fall of 2014, the Smith family contacted Foothills Animal Rescue. They wanted to create a safe haven for dogs and cats that would honor the memory of their daughter, Brynne, and represent her lifelong love of animals.

The Smiths and Foothills spent the next year collaborating on the building’s design, hiring architects and identifying the perfect piece of land. They needed someplace that was available, affordable and in the middle of the community.

“We wanted to be where the people are versus the people having to come to us,” says Victoria Cowper, Foothills Animal Rescue’s executive director. “Instead of building bigger, we’re building a welcome place people want to be. It’s part of the community.” She stresses the importance of having the shelter in a local shopping center.

In April 2016, Foothills Animal Rescue broke ground on the Brynne Smith Memorial Campus. And at 9 a.m. on December 3, the doors to the campus will officially open. The 4,200-square-foot facility, located on East Bell Road in Scottsdale, will be the second Foothills Animal Rescue campus in Arizona.

In 1995, Foothills Animal Rescue began as a small foster-based shelter in Cave Creek, focused on spaying, neutering and adoption for homeless animals. Since then, the shelter has found homes for more than 2,800 animals. A nonprofit organization staffed mainly by volunteers, Foothills Animal Rescue houses more than 80 animals and saves around 650 lives each year.

Victoria hopes that with the opening of the Brynne Smith Memorial Campus, Foothills will be able to double their intake and save even more lives, as well as honor the memory of an amazing young woman.

For the shelter design, Foothills and the Smith family chose Douglas Fredrikson Architects and landscape architect Collaborative V Design Studio.

“Both are local and have extensive experience in design and sustainability,” Victoria says. “They both were close friends of the Smith Family and knew Brynne on a personal level.”

“The design concept for the Foothills Animal Rescue/Brynne Smith Memorial Campus was to create a subtle beacon in the desert that would bring recognition to the purpose of a sanctuary for the animals and a memorial to a lost friend and family member,” says chief architect, Douglas Fredrikson. His goal? “An elegant, simple and artistic representation of desert modern architecture that would endure the test of time and evoke a long, loving memory.”

Paul Vecchia of Collaborative V Design Studio agrees.

“The landscape design is intended to create a peaceful safe haven for residents and visitors alike,” Paul says. “Native Sonoran Desert [trees] ground the structure and provide strong roots to the mission at hand of caring, compassion and the belief that every life matters, which embodies the heart and soul of what Brynne Smith so passionately stood for. The [surrounding] vegetation creates a timeless feel and an aura that represents the eternal spirit and a deep love for animals.”

“It was important to [strike] a balance of tribute [to Brynne] and function from an animal welfare perspective,” says Victoria. With a lobby boasting polished concrete floors and soaring 18-foot ceilings, you can bet this isn’t any ordinary shelter. Featured in the lobby: a painting of Brynne and her dog, as well as a custom metal plate etched with messages from her family and friends.

Keeping with the theme of Brynne’s love and compassion, shelter engineering and planning consultants teamed up with architects and construction professionals to ensure the best possible housing scenarios for the animals.

“We’ve come a long way in how we house animals,” Victoria says. “We’ve learned a lot, from airing to flooring to disease protocols.” The most exciting part for her, she tells me, “was to have the opportunity to be part of the design team from the ground up. We were actively involved, from the location to the color of the wall.”

As you walk through the shelter, you’ll be able to peek through large windows to see kittens, puppies and small dogs at play. If you’re a potential adopter, you can head to a meet and greet room to spend time with new pets and adoption counselors.

The dog suites will boast floor-to-glass frontage, porcelain wall tiles and a music system for stress reduction.

There will be small rooms for cats who prefer to be less social, as well as a room for sick cats and a large community cat room. Each will include scratching pads, comfortable beds and four-inch walls to offer concealment and spine support. The rooms will also feature equipment designed to encourage climbing, jumping, resting, hiding and perching aloft.

Outside, a 1,500-square-foot shaded courtyard will be utilized for events such as dog training and children’s camps. Adjacent to the courtyard, large dogs will frolic in a play area while smaller dogs can burn energy in dog runs next to the shelter’s entrance.

Animal lover? There’s plenty you can do to help before and after the shelter opens.

“There are still major naming opportunities that provide the funding to maintain the shelter,” says Victoria. With a donation, you can name a dog suite, play area or park bench. You can also sign up to volunteer, attend fundraising events like Whiskers and Wine, donate or provide auction items.

Plus, you’re invited to the grand opening of the Brynne Smith Memorial Campus, which will include a public ceremony, an honor guard and ribbon cutting. You’ll be able to greet the shelters new four-legged residents, as well as honor the memory of a girl whose love lives on.

And if you find your new furry best friend? That’s exactly what Brynne would have wanted.

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