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Woman in The Woodlands offers sanctuary for old, sick dogs using profit from real estate business

November 20, 2018

About 10 dogs — some large and some small, others with fur and a few losing their fur, some with four legs and some with just three legs — gathered excitedly around their caretaker Tuesday morning. As Priyanka Johri sat on a bench, one smaller dog even crawled up onto her shoulder, much like a parrot.

“They gave my life a purpose,” Johri said of the rag tag group of canines.

Johri owns and operates the Pure Mutts Animal Sanctuary in The Woodlands area, where she has opened up her 1-acre property to more than 40 dogs who need hospice and special needs care, such as a pup with fibromyalgia or another dog that had previously been used for illegal fighting.

Johri may have started this endeavor 10 years ago, but she said she wasn’t always a dog person. She described herself as wanting to be a CEO for a big company before she connected with a furry friend by chance.

“I didn’t like dogs before, but then a dog came into my life, and I rescued her. She opened me up to the world of rescue,” Johri said. “Before it was all about me, but now I know that (working with the dogs) is what I was born to do.”

Johri started fostering rescue dogs, but got frustrated when shelters would put down sick dogs that cost too much money to care for. So, she set off on her own to find a way to care for them.

“My heart went out to the blind, deaf dogs; the dogs shaking in the back of the kennel who nobody wanted,” Johri said.

With her husband, Ravi, she quite literally opened up her home and began the private nonprofit sanctuary. The couple have the dogs sectioned off from each other in small packs, some in cabins and others roaming in their backyard. They don’t use kennels or cages.

Despite the common space, the dogs seem to get along fine with each other: Johri said this is because they know they’re safe and cared for on the property.

Community members are also able to adopt dogs that have manageable medical needs or younger dogs who come to the sanctuary when they are injured but have had enough time to heal.

However, shortly after Johri started the sanctuary, she ran into a problem. She said she struggled to ask for donations and couldn’t continue to fund the medicine and food the dogs required.

The solution? She became a Realtor and helped her friends buy and sell homes, using some of her profit to fund the dogs’ needs. Her business, Woodlands Eco Realty, now contributes at least 20 percent of the income to the sanctuary.

That funding model, Johri said, is a way that she can sustain her passion and her calling. She said that this blend of business and service has also helped her obtain new clients.

“A lot of clients come because of what I do (with the dogs), because they saw reviews or testimonials. They get so involved, and even go and buy stuff for the dogs,” Johri said.

While that’s good for business, Johri maintains that the dogs always come first. One time, she was out with a client when she got a call about an injured dog. She left the client on the side of the road, explaining that she had to go take care of the dog.

Johri said the client called her the next day — not out of anger, but out of respect for how she dropped everything to save the pup.

“If you follow your passion and you’re open about it, and do it from your heart, people really fall in behind you,” Johri said.

jane.stueckemann@chron.com

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