Local dog lovers help shelter pets enjoy an afternoon out in the community
If you love dogs but can’t commit to having one of your own, Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando has a doggone good alternative.
The organization recently launched Hound Around Town, a community enrichment program for its shelter pooches. Animal lovers can check out a dog at the Sanford and Orlando Pet Alliance shelters and squire them around town for a couple of hours.
Dogs can be taken out seven days a week, between noon and 3:00 p.m., but they have to be back by 5:00. Shelter employees will match participants with an appropriate pooch. Both shelters have a list of approved locations to visit, including trails, restaurants, and shops. Dog parks and other off-leash sites are prohibited for safety reasons.
Candyce Hatch, Pet Alliance’s volunteer manager, says the initiative has been a hit with humans and canines alike. Participants get a fun afternoon with a dog, and the dogs get a break from the shelter, which reduces their stress and improves their behavior.
“Keeping our dogs happy and healthy is what we’re concerned with,” Candyce says. “This also allows us to connect with the community in a way we haven’t before.”
The program has already resulted in a few happy endings, Candyce adds, because several folks returned to adopt the lucky dogs they checked out.
Between graduate school and her duties as a nanny, Gabby Henson is rarely home, so it’s not an ideal time for the University of Central Florida student to adopt a dog. That’s why she finds Hound Around Town so appealing.
“I know I can’t give a dog the life it deserves right now,” says the Oviedo resident. “But this is something I can do to help get them adopted or just get them out of the shelter.”
Shelter workers paired Gabby with Duke, an eight-year-old mixed breed. During their outing, which included a brisk walk and a visit to a restaurant, people asked about Duke’s Adopt Me vest. That gave Gabby an opportunity to talk up the program.
“They thought it was a great way to get the dogs noticed,” Gabby says of Duke’s admirers, and the friendly pooch did his part by turning on the charm. “He wanted everyone to come say hi to him.”
Hajara Piracha isn’t allowed to have pets at her Winter Park apartment, much to her disappointment. Hound Around Town is the perfect way for the young woman to enjoy a little doggie time without drawing the ire of her landlord.
“It’s a mutual benefit,” says Hajara. “Hopefully, someone’s going to see them on the outings, fall in love, and adopt them.”
She was teamed with Bluebell, a five-year-old mixed breed who was raring to go for a walk at Spring Hammock Park.
“It was a lot of fun – I had to jog just to keep up with her, she was so fast,” Hajara says. “But I didn’t mind because my dream is to have a dog who wants to go roller skating with me.”
Marta Schwartz loves dogs but isn’t quite ready for the expense and responsibility of owning one. When she heard about Hound Around Town, the Winter Springs resident was all in.
“This is a great option for college students like me who want that relationship with a dog but without the commitment,” says Marta, who lives with her family.
“It’s only two hours out of your day to enrich the life of a dog who doesn’t have a home,” she says. “It’s really not hard to do, so I think it’s totally worth it.”
Marta was matched with Marilyn, a seven-year-old mixed breed who couldn’t wait to go for a car ride and walk. She took the energetic pooch to downtown Sanford, where they explored the sights, sounds, and smells.
“Just taking care of something and having that companionship was nice,” Marta says. “I know a lot of people who are interested in doing this.”
To sign up for Hound Around Town, go to PetAllianceOrlando.org and click on the community involvement tab. For more details, call 407-351-7722.
Great news! At press time, all these precious pooches had been adopted, but the Pet Alliance shelters have countless others.
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