Will we like each other? Will we have fun? Will we connect?
No, these questions weren’t running through my mind before a first date. I was nervous about a different kind of introduction.
Recently, I participated in LifeLine Animal Project’s Dog for the Day program through the DeKalb County Animal Shelter. The program allows volunteers to take a dog out of the shelter and go for walks, play in a park or even just lounge around at home. Your pet for the day comes with a leash and collar, plus an “adopt me” vest letting anyone who you might encounter know that the dog is up for adoption.
When I first learned about the program, I thought it sounded like a great idea. What better way to get shelter dogs adopted than getting them out of the shelter enviroment and getting them noticed? Still, I had no idea what to expect when I arrived last week for a training session with volunteer coordinator and adoptions supervisor Kay Morneault.
“We’ve definitely had success stories based on the Dog for the Day program and it helps our dogs become more socialized as well as giving them a break from a hectic life here at the shelter,” she said.
It quickly became apparent to me during a tour of the facilities that Kay was right about how busy the shelter is on any given day. According to LifeLine’s website, more than 15,000 animals enter the DeKalb and Fulton shelters each year. Yet, almost miraculously, the nonprofit that now manages both counties’ animal services has been able to increase adoptions by 150 percent since taking over in 2012.
So, as an animal lover and supporter of LifeLine’s goal to end the euthanasia of healthy dogs and cats in metro Atlanta shelters, I was ready for my first volunteer opportunity.
Dog for the Day participants are allowed to pick a fully vetted dog to take out for the day from a list of approved canine participants. Since I was a first timer, Kay had a recommendation for me – Peppermint, a one-year-old chocolate and white, medium-sized pitbull and terrier mix.
Although I was nervous, Peppermint was a pro. She eagerly greeted me and others in the lobby while Kay helped me fasten her “adopt me” vest.
Once we were out and about it was easy to see why Peppermint was such a good choice as a Dog for the Day companion – she was social, calm, didn’t bark or growl and seemed to enjoy a variety of activities, whether it was walking around Oakhurst and stopping for a group of kids to pet and love on her or just chilling on the back porch with me after a long afternoon out and about. By the time our day of fun was over, Peppermint had eased any doubts I had about taking a shelter pet out for the day.
I’m eager to participate in the program again soon. One day I hope to have a dog companion for much longer than an afternoon and the program is a great way to get a feel for what being an adopter is all about.
If you’d like more information on the Dog for the Day program or other volunteer opportunities, visit www.lifelineanimal.org.
My new friend Peppermint is still looking for her forever family. You can meet her and many other adoptable pets at the DeKalb Animal Shelter located at 845 Camp Road in Decatur.