Glendale College's Student Magazine
Wednesday June 20th 2018

Victoria Burrows: Pet Placement Superstar

Victoria Burrows Victoria Burrows

At around 8 a.m. every Sunday, Victoria Burrows arrives at a US Bank parking lot on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Swathmore Avenue. The morning air is filled with the sounds of the nearby farmer’s market. She is the first one here and she will be the last person to leave. As she starts unpacking the various pens, crates, and tents, a cacophony of barking provides a soundtrack to her work. Thankfully, volunteers show up and help her unpack her Subaru SUV, allowing her to catch her breath. Another Sunday dog adoption fair has begun.

Victoria is the head of Star Paws Rescue, a canine adoption service based out of the affluent Pacific Palisades. The rescue’s website states its mission as operating under three main guidelines: rescuing abandoned, injured, or abused dogs; establishing a network in the rescue community to place dogs; and spaying, neutering, and microchipping (a process in which a computer chip is placed under the dog’s skin containing the dog’s name, owner information, and emergency contact information).

“I love making a difference in a helpless dog’s life,” says Burrows, who has been rescuing dogs for 11 years. “I am constantly told by people that have adopted dogs that it changed their life.” 

“I am constantly told by people that have adopted dogs that it changed their life.”

But she has a surprising dual career.

In addition to running Star Paws with her partner, John Lopez, Burrows works as a casting director; some of her projects include the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “King Kong,” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.” Her job, which she describes as “middle management between the producers and the agents” seems to be a perfect fit.

“I love working with actors,” she enthuses, “I like being a buyer, and I like giving people money; and that adds up to casting.” When asked about upcoming projects of hers, she pauses for a few seconds, and then answers “The one that’s coming out [in theaters] is Flight, with Denzel Washington, and that comes out Nov. 2.” And then, almost as an afterthought, she adds “…and “The Hobbit,” of course.”

That’s weekdays.

Every Sunday, Burrows fills her SUV with dogs and heads to the US Bank parking lot. She shares this space with another dog rescue organization, as well as a cat rescue. Luckily, it’s a big parking lot, and the cats and dogs can share the space without trampling on each other’s nerves (aside from any trouble stirred up by the usual suspects). The event runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is located right next to the entrance to a local farmer’s market, in the hopes of catching the attention of families out for a stroll, young hipster professionals who need their infusion of caffeine, and even the rare celebrity or two.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, an estimated 5 million cats and dogs are killed in shelters each year; about one every six and a half seconds. Millions more are abandoned, only to suffer from illness or injury before dying.

 According to the Humane Society of the United States, an estimated 5 million cats and dogs are killed in shelters each year; about one every six and a half seconds. Millions more are abandoned, only to suffer from illness or injury before dying. Star Paws holds these adoption fairs to showcase the dogs they foster, in the hopes that they catch the eye of a passerby. However, the dog are not just handed off indiscriminately; in order to adopt a dog, potential owners must fill out an four-page application describing their living situation, pet history, and work schedule; there is also an adoption fee ranging from $250 to $300, which goes toward vet expenses and the cost of food. “We really try to fit the dog and the human together,” says Burrows. “We are doggy matchmakers.” Another critical step in the adoption process is the home check, where a representative of Star Paws (usually Victoria or one of her volunteers) checks the house and yard, to make sure the dog would be secure and not be in a flight-risk situation. Once the application goes through and the home has been checked out, the dog goes off to its new home for a trial period of one, sometimes two weeks. The trial period ensures that the owners are sure the dog is a good fit, and if it doesn’t work out for any reason, the dog is returned to the organization to try again with another home.

Any adoption service is beholden to the volunteers that give their time and energy to improve the lives of these animals. Many of the volunteers at Star Paws have known Victoria for a number of years, like Myles Gullette. “I’ve known her since 1995,” he said. “I came out from college on a film industry internship and worked on ‘Walker, Texas Ranger.’ She was the casting director, so I got to know her that way, started volunteering in her office, got paid then worked off-and-on for the next two years until 1997. Then we split apart because I went back to school.…I came back and saw that she was doing the rescue and…reached out and let her know I’d love to be a part of Star Paws. So I’ve been coming [to Sunday adoptions] as much as I can ever since.”

Another source of help to Victoria is the marriage team of Matthew and Sam Simon, who volunteer nearly every Sunday. Recently, they adopted their first dog (from Star Paws, of course): Blue, a 35-pound golden retriever puppy, which was fostered with Star Paws along with the rest of his litter. As Sam talks about the experience of training, Blue sits next to her, feeding off of the happy tone of her voice. “We took him to a trainer twice,” she beams. “Now he can sit, stay, lie down, and he can walk on a leash.” It’s not hard to see the excitement bleeding through her words as she describes his play dates with his siblings. “He has four brothers and a sister,” she says. “He’s met two of his brothers, and he’s going to meet his other brother and sister sometime this week.” Unlike most siblings, who don’t see each other after they are adopted, Blue’s litter keeps in touch. “We have a Facebook page, actually.”

“They play with each other like they were meant to stay together,” Sam marvels, “I think that other litters should try and find each other.”

It’s not all sunshine and happy thoughts, though. The work can be demanding, and some dogs require a great deal of energy to rehabilitate. “The worst part of rescue,” Victoria confides, “is that, day-to-day, you never know if you’re going to be called into an emergency. There’s a stress, and you have to fix it. And the quick fix is really hard to do.” Still, most people are of the opinion that Victoria is doing a lot of good.

Louie Friedman, a long-time volunteer, said that he finds her “inspiring, because she is the most unselfish, caring, and passionate dog rescuer I know.” And John Lopez, her partner of nearly 15 years, made special mention of “the amount of attention she pays to the screening process in finding the dogs a good home.” Although no dogs had been adopted by the end of the adoption fair, Star Paws had collected more than five applications on puppies, and at least one dog is scheduled to be adopted over the week. And so the towels were gathered up and tents broken down, as the gathered children tried to get one last glimpse of the dogs as they were packed up. Next Sunday, and every Sunday, Victoria, the volunteers, and still more dogs will return. And, of course, Victoria Burrows will be the last to leave.


About Matt Kemper
Matt Kemper is 20 years young and working on a journalism major at the University of South Dakota. In the future, he hopes to mold young minds without actually having to meet them and model for American Apparel.

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