While the Companion Animal Alliance’s brand-new shelter is covered in soothing paint colors, large windows and other eye-catching finishes, development director Emily Jackson is quick to note that while the facility is beautiful, the people and animals who fill the walls are what bring the shelter’s mission to find animals loving homes to fruition.
“The shelter runs on volunteers,” says Jackson. “The dogs might have larger-than-average kennel areas in this new facility, but they still need to get out, walk and socialize. It’s amazing how a dog’s personality begins to shine as soon as they get on a leash and start walking out of the building.”
While Jackson notes that many people are hesitant to take on the commitment of fostering, the team has come up with a solution that is much more accessible to any animal lover: its new “Date-a-Dog” program. The initiative allows people to come to the shelter, “check out” a dog, and take it around town on walks or to get coffee, all with the goal of giving the dog some fresh air and individualized attention.
“All you have to do is attend an orientation on the first Saturday of the month,” says Jackson, noting that the minimum age is 18, but adults are welcome to bring kids along. “The session just covers the basics of handling dogs and where the shelter dogs can’t go, like the dog park.”
Launched in December, the program is still in its early days, but Jackson says volunteers are already discussing branded leashes and T-shirts to spread the word. And the name? Jackson says it’s a nod to the potential they believe lies in spending quality time with a dog. “I think it’s an easy progression for people to fall in love with a dog and choose to adopt,” explains Jackson. “Our goal is to get as many dogs adopted as possible, and if this helps with that, then that is perfect. But we also want people to come and give these dogs the attention they need to help their personalities show when people come into the shelter to look for a family pet.”
Beyond the benefits for the dog, the program also boasts countless advantages for volunteers. Dogs have been shown to lower blood pressure and anxiety, while taking a dog on regular walks will also help with fitness goals and the simple act of getting fresh air.
“Dogs need so much interaction,” says Jackson, noting the profound bonds that can be formed between humans and dogs. “This program is truly like a date because it gives both the dog and the person some quality time that is mutually beneficial.”
However, if Date-a-dog doesn’t fit with your schedule or interests, Jackson notes that any and every donation makes a difference to the shelter and its animals. Towels, toys, treats, and monthly giving, even if it is only five dollars, are hugely helpful in keeping all the animals that make their way through the shelter happy and healthy.
The next orientation session is on February 2 at 12 p.m. For more information and to sign up, visit the event page here. And to learn more about the Companion Animal Alliance’s other programs, click here.