Renovating Animal Shelters: Project Pawsitive’s Founder’s Mission Since 2009

How Grief and Loss Led a Local Woman to Shine in Animal Planet’s Pet Nation Renovation Airing Nationally 12/2 at 9PM EST and 10 PM EST

She was asked by the national network to renovate two animal shelters because of her 8-year mission of renovating animal shelters across the country.

jill_dadPortsmouth, NH – After Portsmouth-based, Jill Sullivan Grueter, lost her father to brain cancer and her 2-year-old rescue dog, Molly, to Lupus within three months of each other, the world got very dark.

“It was like everything I looked at was cloaked in shades of gray and black,” said Sullivan. “I wanted so desperately to bring them back; to see them one more time. Everything seemed skewed, off balance, and warped.”

For Sullivan, losing her dad and Molly led her to question everything about life. Why are we here? Why do we suffer? What does life really mean for us? She admits to getting very angry and stuck. Yet, something her dad said was never far from her heart.

“It was during a kayak trip my dad and I took on Lake Massabessic before we knew about the brain tumor,” she said. “His two sisters and mom had recently died within a year of each other from cancer, so I told him about my wavering trust and faith in life and the purpose of it. Did he feel it too, I wondered? His reply leveled me. He said, ‘Jill, you know how every day you wake up and know your porch will be there, the trees will be there, and your lawn will be there? You just know it as fact, right? Well, that is how sure I am that God exists. God just is.’”

For Sullivan and her dad, the conversation wasn’t about religion or a specific faith-based perspective. “It was about the meaning of life and the opportunities we have to make a difference for whatever amount of time we are here,” she said.

It took Sullivan time to recover from his death. Between worrying about her mom losing her soul mate and the personal loss of that steady anchor in her father, the recuperation was significant and on many days unbearable. “There just came a point when I hit a fork in the road,” she said. “Stay angry? Or, make a difference like dad and I talked about.”

“I still struggle with what my dad taught me, but his death, and Molly’s, showed me that life wasn’t about me at all. That preverbal fork flipped a switch in my head that said, “you’re here for a reason and it’s to help and make a difference for others.”

Sullivan took her love for animals and her trust in life that she learned from her dad and began her mission of renovating animal shelters on the verge of collapse and closure. “I would see these amazing volunteers working so hard to save so many beautiful animals, and their facilities were on the verge of collapse and closure. There wasn’t any help for the buildings. What happened to the animals and volunteers if the buildings were unusable?”

By the fall of 2009, she started her nonprofit, The Project Pawsitive Foundation, and raised over $30,000 in supplies and labor to renovate her first animal rescue that was saving horses from slaughter and neglect in Epping. With the help of North Hampton’s Home Depot and local volunteers, Sullivan and her team were able to repair the barn’s roof, which had a gapping hole letting water and snow pour in; replace broken and frozen waterlines that were run all over the farm’s property; fix major electrical issues; provide much-needed storage and paddock space; and provide a beautiful finishing touch of painting the barn a traditional New England red. “At the end of the renovation, I took a step back and really looked at this gorgeous red barn and horses happily grazing – it was breath taking. I had never felt so much gratitude and peace in my life.”


Since 2009, Sullivan has raised over a quarter of a million dollars, renovated numerous animal rescues in New England and around the country, and has helped over 10,000 rescue animals and counting. Most recently, Animal Planet saw Jill and her team on one of their YouTube videos ( and is featuring Project Pawsitive in their new special, Pet Nation Renovation airing Friday, December 2nd at 9pm and 10pm.

“We traveled to Ashland, Virginia and Pontiac, Michigan for a month to renovate two amazing and deserving animal rescues,” said Sullivan. “With the help of Animal Planet, ACE Hardware, Delta Faucet, and Quicken Loans, we were able to provide life-changing renovations that not only make the buildings look beautiful and welcoming, but most importantly, reducing the stress of the cats and dogs in their care, which ultimately increases adoption rates.”

Sullivan said her dad and Molly are at the forefront of her mind whenever she is renovating. “They are always with me,” she said. “And, during each renovation, I make sure to step away and take look at everything that is happening to live in the moment of pure gratitude for what I am able to do for the animal shelters and rescues we are able to help.”

Animal Planet’s Pet Nation Renovation is hosted by animal expert and home renovation enthusiast Dave Salmoni, and featuring the animal shelter renovation experts from Project Pawsitive. The PET NATION RENOVATION team completely transforms two shelters – MARL and Bandit’s Adoption and Rescue of K-9s (BARK) in Ashland, Virginia.

Working out of a 63-year-old building, MARL received state-of-the art indoor and outdoor kennels, a living room-style meet and greet area to put the dogs at ease and a special cat apartment that will allow the felines to be entertained and work out their energy. Watch both episodes on 12/2 starting at 9 PM.
About Project Pawsitive

From financing the project, to design and actual renovation, Project Pawsitive relies solely on donations.

“We are a 501c3 charity,” said Sullivan. “All donations are tax-deductible and go towards renovating shelters in need. Our mission is to focus on the shelter renovations so the staff at the shelters can focus on the care and adoption for the animals.”

“We hope that audiences who watch Pet Nation Renovation will see a glimpse of the important work these amazing animal shelters are doing and how Project Pawsitive is helping them succeed in their mission to save animals in need.”

Project Pawsitive has completed renovations and projects throughout New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts and beyond. To date, it has helped over 10,000 animals and Sullivan has raised over a quarter of a million dollars for rescues and shelters in need. Larger renovation projects include: The Animal Rescue Network of New England in Pelham, N.H., The Salem Animal Rescue League in Salem, N.H., Lucky’s Legacy in Epping, N.H., Center for Wildlife in York, M.E., Humane Society of Greater Nashua in Nashua, N.H., Cocheco Valley Humane Society in Dover, N.H., (electrical/ventilation), Loki Clan Wolf Refuge in N.H., Greyhound Adoption Shelter in M.A., and Sterling Animal Shelter also in MA. The nonprofit has also traveled to Jefferson County, T.N. to build a new cat shelter building, as well as Virginia and Michigan. Grants for renovation work and food donations have also been provided to animal rescues around the country.

Instagram: @projectpaws

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  1. Id love to help anytime ur in the area….i may not have funds I can give but I have a strong back and work ethic willing to do whatever it takes.

  2. We need some help up here in my small city of Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. I saw the first program the other night and then this afternoon. If you are in our area, maybe I can help in some way. They could need to close down if not fixed up. Love what you did for that small adoption and shelter.

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