You can’t judge a shelter dog by how he acts in the kennel. You also can’t judge him by how he acts in the playpen, lobby, or in the first fifteen minutes of a walk. Staff and volunteers pour their hearts and souls into these dogs, but there are simply too many shelter dogs for them all to get as much exercise and engagement as they need.
Since so many shelter dogs are high-energy young dogs with little or no training, the problem is compounded. Potential adopters never get to meet the real dog. Instead, they see a hyped up version that often won’t engage. Taking shelter dogs on outings serves two essential purposes:
- The dog gets exercise, stimulus, and training so that she can behave calmly in the shelter and attract potential adopters.
- People get a chance to meet the dog outside of the shelter environment, letting her show her wonderful true colors.
If you have a little time and love dogs, consider volunteering with Alachua County Animal Services or your local shelter. Whether you play with dogs at the shelter or take a dog out for a fun afternoon, you and the dogs will both have a great time.
This past Friday, I took out Jonah. Jonah is a big, handsome guy with a huge smile and beautiful markings. He has been at the shelter for a long time, initially undergoing heartworm treatment. When I took him out, he had been cleared for several months from heartworm, but to play it safe we decided that he should only be walked, not allowed to jog.
Jonah was wildly happy to be out of his kennel. He tried to jump on everyone that he saw in the lobby and lunged wildly on his lead. The ACAS staff fitted him with a sturdy harness. A martingale collar was an extra measure of security to prevent him from slipping out of the harness. Of course, he also wore the Adopt Me vest so everyone would know that he was available.
We walked around the Animal Services grounds for a while so we could get to know each other, then I asked Jonah to get in the back of my car. He was very nervous and a little unsure of how to climb into the backseat since he wasn’t willing to jump. He looked very silly with his big butt sticking out from my little Honda. Finally, I climbed in and called him. He was willing to jump in for snuggles! After cuddling in my backseat for a minute or so, I climbed out and we were off. He was good in the car, just looking out the windows as we went to Depot Park.
At first, Jonah lunged a lot on the harness, excited with a puppyish enthusiasm by everyone he saw and wanting to go everywhere faster. Since I couldn’t let him run and didn’t want to be dragged all around the park, we did a lot of direction changes to get him walking loosely on the leash. This is very easy to do, especially when you have open ground and lots of interesting terrain like at Depot Park.
Every time he started to pull I called him and changed direction. Soon he decided that pulling accomplished nothing and became more interested in the environment he was in. He is a very curious fellow; willing to sniff and explore instead of pulling.
After a while, we took a break in the shade. Jonah crawled right into my lap, snuggling and soaking in every scratch. This is a guy that would love to cuddle on the couch and watch movies. I think that he would have stayed there all day. A young German Shepherd mix went by barking and snarling at Jonah, but he just kept chilling.
After our break, Jonah was much calmer on the leash. He wasn’t pulling at all anymore, much less lunging. Now that he was calm on the leash everyone wanted to meet him. He looked hopefully at people walking by, and they often stopped. Turns out he isn’t a very high-energy dog, after all. More of a lovebug really. He just needed a little exercise to calm down. After Depot Park we went downtown, where Jonah got all kinds of attention.
Jonah was a big hit at Maude’s Cafe. He even became an Instagram star on their social feed. Thanks so much, Maude’s! This kind of publicity is just what Jonah needs to stand out and find his forever home.
Once I’d had a refreshing cup of the Fall Herbal Iced Tea, Jonah and I strolled back to my car and headed back to ACAS, where I expect he napped for the rest of the afternoon. I had a great time, got some exercise, and felt ready to settle in for an afternoon of writing.
If you are thinking about fostering, adopting, or volunteering, I urge you to make the next step! Rescue dogs are amazing dogs. Contact ACAS or one of the many great rescue organizations here in Gainesville or wherever you are located. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions and follow me on Facebook and Instagram.