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Baldwin grad unleashes hope for people and dogs in need

Tim Lydon’s nonprofit fosters dogs for owners experiencing domestic abuse, homelessness, or medical emergencies
Brendan Harris
Tim Lydon is the founder of Harmony Dog Rescue and a Baldwin High School Class of 2003 graduate.

While living and traveling through Europe in the years after college, Tim Lydon found himself at a dog sanctuary in Ireland that changed his life. 

The 40-acre converted equestrian farm housed dogs in the heated horse stables. The owner “must have had about 40 dogs at her house and no full-time staff. She just had volunteers like me from all over the world stay at her house. In exchange for room and board, we would care for the dogs,” Lydon, a Baldwin Class of 2003 grad, said. 

The experience helped him envision a future for himself.

“That was the first person I ever met who dedicated her life to dogs, and that gave me the confidence to do the same. I thought, ‘That could definitely be my life,’ ” he said. 

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A few years later, Lydon’s dream is coming true. 

Lydon is the founder of Harmony Dog Rescue, a non-profit organization committed to fostering dogs belonging to people in abusive relationships, experiencing severe medical complications, or who are experiencing homelessness. After the people are in a better living situation, they reunite with their dog. 

The organization has been operating for about three months. Currently, Harmony offers 60 days of free boarding and medical care for each dog. 

Dana Herrmann-Hart, director of Animal Advocacy and Legal Services at Crisis Center North, said Harmony Rescue provides a particularly much-needed service for domestic abuse survivors and their pets.

“Women entering shelters report pet abuse, which perpetrators use to manipulate and control their victims. Often, victims remain with or return to abusers to protect the welfare of their companion animals,” Herrmann-Hart said. “We have seen the lack of services in this area and that is why we are working to remove this barrier to escaping violence in the home.”

Within the next three to five years, Lydon plans to build a kennel for rescue dogs in Butler County, and make Harmony Rescue his full-time job. Currently, Lydon works at a dog daycare company and manages Harmony Rescue in his free time. 

“Once we have enough money to build a kennel, we can house 60 to 100 dogs, so we can really not turn anyone away,” he said. 

When Harmony Rescue began, its focus was mainly on fostering the dogs of those experiencing domestic violence, so that they could focus on improving their situation without worrying about their pets. However, Lydon had a hard time turning away those in need. The group’s first patron was a homeless woman living in downtown Pittsburgh. Her two dogs are currently in the care of Harmony Dog Rescue. 

I’ve learned that the homeless are the best pet owners you will ever meet.”

— Tim Lydon

“The homeless woman who called us, she was not our target market. But we didn’t want to turn her away, and we had the capacity so we helped her,” he said.

After receiving more requests from those in need, often in differing situations, Lydon made the decision to expand the population the organization serves.

Homelessness in Allegheny County has increased significantly, especially since the pandemic. According to Allegheny County Analytics, in January 2023, 913 individuals were staying in emergency shelters or experiencing unsheltered homelessness. This is compared to 736 in 2022. 

Pet owners without a home are no different from other people who have pets, and they are still compassionate and caring to their animals, Lydon said.

“I’ve learned that the homeless are the best pet owners you will ever meet,” he said. 

Lydon’s network of fosters across Western Pennsylvania ensures that there is almost always someone willing to care for a pet in need. Those who are interested in using Harmony’s services first fill out an application form. After Lydon assesses the person’s situation, he picks up the dog and delivers it to one of the fosters. 

Volunteers have to go through a thorough process before being eligible to foster dogs, Lydon said. They have to receive a home check and fill out an application giving basic information about what kinds of animals they have at home, and how long they can care for a foster dog. 

Right now, Lydon has 15 people ready and available to take in foster dogs, and he hopes to increase this number in the future. Harmony Rescue has taken in nine dogs so far. 

After the dog is safely in foster care, the client checks in with Harmony once a week, and all information is kept confidential. Foster families are not allowed to post pictures of the dogs they are fostering or talk about them online for the privacy and security of the pet’s owner. 

I should have been doing this my whole life. I’ve done cool things, but now I am doing my life’s work. It is a great community.”

— Tim Lydon

Morgan (whose name has been changed for security reasons) fosters dogs for Lydon. Morgan said Harmony provides an important service that many people can benefit from. 

“I have spoken with a couple of the people (Tim) has helped and is helping. I can hear the peace in their voices, knowing their best friend is safe while they get their lives back on track,” Morgan said. “I wish more people could see and feel the value in this kind of organization.”

Morgan said that the length of time they foster a dog can vary. They have cared for one for two weeks and another one for 60 days. Morgan also tries to take in as many dogs as they can because they believe fostering is important work.

“I have fostered a few times for (Lydon), and will, as much as I possibly can. There is a great need for help, especially today with things the way they are for so many,” Morgan said.

Lydon said that the cause and the organization mean a lot to him.

“I should have been doing this my whole life. I’ve done cool things, but now I am doing my life’s work. It is a great community,” he said. “We are a link in a chain.”

By working to help others here in Pittsburgh, Lydon hasn’t strayed far from his Baldwin roots.

Lydon played basketball for Baldwin all four years of high school, as well as track and football for one year each. 

“I made many great friends. I have nothing but fondness,” he said of his high school years. 

Lydon was a student in English teacher Amy Barno’s junior year English class.

“He was always really animated and had a strong personality,” Barno said. “He is personable. He wears his heart on his sleeve, so it doesn’t surprise me that he is doing (philanthropy work).”

She recognized the importance of Lydon’s mission and nonprofit. 

It’s wonderful that he’s taking that risk and being able to support where it is needed,” she said. “There’s really a need for this in the community.”

Lydon said that the organization is always looking for support, whether it be people volunteering to foster dogs, fundraise, spread the word, or share their website and social medias: Instagram at @harmonydogrescue, or Facebook at @Harmony Dog Rescue.

This story was originally published on Purbalite on February 15, 2024.