Believe it or not, the process of finding a home for both humans and four-legged friends isn’t too far off from each other. Jeanne Sommer, Real Estate Broker and Owner of Century 21 Alliance Group is also the Founder and Director of Lakeshore PAWS. She said those two worlds align regularly.
“Finding a home for people is just as important to me as finding a home for pets. We try to market dogs like we market houses. If we could sell a house, we could sell a dog. Whether it’s helping our two-legged friends or four -legged friends, it’s just as rewarding in the end and there is no better feeling,” Sommer said.
Sommer has been in the real estate business for almost 30 years and has sold 3,000 homes in the process. Her passion for saving dogs started after she entered the real estate business while vacationing in Belize with her daughter. Sommer found herself astounded by the amount of stray dogs wandering the streets and felt it was her duty to help in some way.
“Sparky was the dog who started it all for me. My daughter and I took him to the humane society and we ended up not being able to take him back to the states due to numerous medical issues. But they did follow up with us to tell us that he ended up finding a home. That’s when I thought to myself: if I could help one dog here so far away from home, why couldn’t we help more in Northwest Indiana?” Sommer said.
Before Lakeshore PAWS started in April 2011, Sommer would house some of the puppies in her home, or even in her real estate office. Finally, her husband urged her to get a separate space for the dogs.
“It was a joy to always be surrounded by puppies, but it was getting a bit chaotic as we continued to grow,” Sommer said.
The organization has come a long way since then. Each year, Lakeshore PAWS matches 800 dogs to their lifelong homes with a save rate of 99 percent. But finding homes for every dog isn’t always a walk in the park. Sommer recalled a time when a certain four-legged friend named Buddy waited close to a year until he found his perfect match.
“I would pass by his kennel and think to myself that we would be keeping him forever, and he would become our Lakeshore PAWS mascot,” Sommer joked. “And then one day a man from the Army came in and asked to see the dogs who have been here the longest. They immediately just clicked. I really believe that certain dogs are waiting for their person and will be with us until they meet them.”
She is just as committed to helping people find their perfect homes.
“There is no greater feeling than helping someone make the move to another home, whether it is selling or buying. It’s such a huge life decision that they are making and to be a part of this decision is very special,” Sommer said.
Sommer has even sold homes to multiple generations of families throughout the years.
“It sometimes makes me feel a little old,” Sommer laughed. “It’s neat to see my clients’ families grow over time and in these cases it sometimes feels like I become part of the family.”
If Sommer had one wish, it would be that everyone was kind to each other and realized that we are all connected as a community in some way.
“Helping each other out and being kind is so important. We have a great community and are fortunate to live in such a great country. Everything we do matters, no matter how small or large. It all has an effect on our community,” Sommer said.
Sommer urges her community members to give adoption a chance because you never know if you are the perfect person for a Lakeshore PAWS pup.
“Not only do we get to make a dog happy and save their life by finding their perfect match and forever home, but this also has a huge impact on the person or family that has adopted that dog. I’ve seen lives change because of the love of a dog can add to their lives. They say we live longer with the love of a dog and I believe it,” Sommer said.