As you walk up to Jason Cooke’s home at 384 Collar Price Road in Brookfield, it doesn’t take long for the
dogs housed therein to sense that someone is coming, and to start barking. Loudly.
Cooke, the founder of the Healthy Hearts and Paws Project, which rescues dogs that are heartworm-positive, treats them and adopts them out, spends much of his time indoors wearing noise-canceling
As of the day of this interview, Cooke, had 44 dogs in his house. There were dogs in kennels, dogs in
crates – even one in the bathroom.
“It’s just not conducive to a good environment for the public who adopt dogs, plus I don’t have any
privacy,” Cooke said of the arrangement. “The other issue is we don’t have a quarantine place, right now.”
That will change if Cooke can build a 10,500-square-foot Heartworm Treatment, Recovery and Adoption
Center, which is planned for construction behind his home.
The center would have 70 suites, with areas set aside for dogs in quarantine, dogs in treatment and dogs
ready for adoption. The suites would be 10 feet by 4 feet – much larger than the kennels and crates the
dogs now are kept in.
“A lot of the runs are indoor/outdoor runs, so the dogs, even when they’re in their kennels, they can still
go through the little doggie door and enjoy some fresh air,” said Cooke, who is working with architectural
firm Baker Bednar and Snyder and Associates of Warren.
The center also would have indoor play yards for days when the weather is bad, and rooms where
prospective adopters can spend time with dogs.
“We hope to break ground in spring of 2022,” Cooke said. “Hope to open in 2023. It really just depends
on how our capital campaign goes.”
Projected construction cost is $2.5 million, and VendRick Construction of Brookfield would put up the
prefabricated building. Cooke said half of the center can be built at a time, allowing him to begin
operations there before the entire building is complete.
Cooke opened Healthy Hearts, a non-profit corporation, in August 2018, and pulled 20 heartworm-positive dogs from shelters that year. In 2020, the number of dogs pulled jumped to 200.
“This year, we’ll pull 300 heartworm-positive dogs,” he said.
When the center is open, the number of dogs should jump to 400 or 500 a year, Cooke said.
While the cost of building the shelter may cause some jaws to drop, Cooke pledged that the design is
based on “things that we need. It’s not that we want. I would have lots of bells and whistles, but, from an
economical standpoint, I want to make sure every dollar is used wisely.”
Heartworm is a mosquito-borne disease. Dogs can be fully treated – to the tune of $500 to $1,000 a dog –
if heartworm is caught early enough, but it can be prevented with monthly pills or annual shots.
Ideally, the dogs should be kept in foster homes through their treatment, and Cooke has an extensive
roster of homes that take in the dogs. They’re just not enough to cover all the dogs he takes in.
Healthy Hearts has functioned solely on donations, but Cooke has added a couple of people with grant-writing experience to his board to chase foundation money.
“The majority of the money, I think, is gonna come from private individuals that want to put their name
on something really special,” Cooke said. “That’s why we have all of these sponsorship opportunities.”
Skeptical about the plans? “If anyone wants to see what’s happening, just stop by,” he said.
Ways you can help the Healthy Hearts and Paws Project:
• Donate money at the Healthy Hearts Facebook page, @heartwormwarrior
• Donate money through PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org
• Donate dog food. Cooke gives his dogs Pedigree dry chicken roasted dog food and large
• Provide an item on the Healthy Hearts wish list that is posted on Amazon.
• Stop by Healthy Hearts at 384 Collar Price Road, and ask Cooke about what he has done and
what he would like to do.