CUMBERLAND – You meet a dog. You hang around for a while. You succeeded. At the end of the day, you drop the dog off at the shelter.
It’s not the traditional way of doing things, but staff at the Allegany County Animal Shelter are hoping their new Hounds Around Town program will give dog lovers the chance to make a new four-legged friend while they are. by promoting adoptions and taking dogs out. for a day.
Patty Collison, the manager of the shelter, said the program “just started” earlier this week. Collison said she came up with the idea from a Humane Society of the United States magazine article.
“(Executive Director Tina Rosa) came up with the name Hounds Around Town, and we decided to launch it on March 2,” said Collison.
The goal, as Collison explained, is to get the dogs at the shelter to be better socialized and, hopefully, adopted by a member of the community.
“The more people take them out and have them socialize and exercise, the less stress they will have in the kennel,” said Collison. “We hope that people will also welcome them into their homes so that they can discover a family environment. Our ultimate goal is for people who take them out to either adopt them or say to their friends and family, “Hey, I took that dog out today”. They are absolutely fabulous. You should go to the shelter and meet him.
“It’s a great way to expand their exposure to people in the community who may not even really know they want a dog,” Rosa said. “If you take the dog out for the day and, say, your best friend meets you for a hike, hopefully there will be a connection there.”
Rosa said the volunteers were able to take dogs with them, whether for long walks or a dip in the waters of Rocky Gap State Park on a sunny day. Sometimes they even have the opportunity to hang out in the homes of volunteers, which provides a valuable chance to see how dogs behave outside of the kennel environment. It’s especially helpful, Rosa said, when adopters ask how dogs behave in this type of environment.
“It’s the dogs (Collison) noticed in the kennels that are much calmer, more relaxed,” Rosa said. “And we’re getting a lot of good feedback that we wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Collison also noted that Hounds Around Town might be a perfect fit for people who for some reason aren’t able to fully engage in dog ownership.
One of those adoptable dogs is Ant-Man, who was one of eight dogs rescued last June from an abandoned MV Smith Road residence that housed an illegal dog-fighting operation. Ant-Man, Rosa said, is the oldest of the pit bulls rescued from appalling conditions.
When he first arrived at the shelter, Rosa said, Ant-Man was in such poor physical shape that he couldn’t walk and volunteers had to come and pick him up to get out. They suspected a neurological disease and were investigating the possibility of raising funds for a mobility cart to enable him to move around.
But then, Rosa said, something unexpected happened: By simply walking around with volunteers at the shelter and exercising regularly, Ant-Man began to regain his strength. Although his ribs are still visible in his tanned fur, Ant-Man is now happy, healthy, and perfectly capable of pulling any adult who takes him for a walk. This type of recovery, they said, is proof of how far exercise and socialization can go for a pet.
The new program comes at an opportune time for the shelter as it prepares to complete construction of a new building which, when completed, will be the new adoption floor for the dogs. Construction began in September, after the project received $ 500,000 in funds from the governor’s capital budget. When complete, the new structure will include 44 kennels that will allow dogs to access the outdoors more easily.
In an interview with The Times-News on Friday morning, Collison said they’ve been fortunate so far that day to have a few people walking to sign up for Hounds Around Town. New volunteers complete an application and receive an information pack informing them of the program. Before leaving for the day with their new friend, they’re given a bag that contains everything they’ll need, from a leash to a colorful bandana.
“If I could take every dog out for the day, I’d be the happiest person in the world,” Collison said.
New volunteer Sydney Northcraft, a student at WVU Potomac State College, said she didn’t have classes on Friday and decided she would spend the day making a new friend. Northcraft said she wasn’t sure where the day would take her yet with Pepper, a 6-year-old brindle bulldog mix and longtime shelter resident.
Maybe they’d take a long, pleasant walk, Northcraft said, “or maybe we’ll go to PetSmart to buy a new toy.”
Follow editor Lindsay Renner-Wood on Twitter @LindsayRenWood.