Working to alleviate the stress of the shelter, the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter has implemented Dog’s Day Out, a program allowing volunteers to borrow a dog for the day.
Dog’s Day Out allows approved volunteers 18 years or older, to take a shelter dog out of their kennels, and around the San Marcos community for hikes, puppuccinos or car rides, all while exposing them to potential fosters.
Sophia Proler, San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter’s Program Coordinator, says Dog’s Day Out is a great way to get the dogs around the San Marcos community and help reduce the stress of the shelter.
“It’s a really good opportunity to lower the stress of the dogs, to get a little exercise as a volunteer and to meet new people out on the trail or at dog-friendly restaurants and patios, so the pup can maybe find their forever home,” Proler says.
Volunteers are able to take dogs out for up to three hours on any Sunday, Tuesday or Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
With approximately four to five thousand animals entering the shelter’s doors each year, the stress of the shelter and need for attention continues to grow.
Jen Harris, a pitbull lover and active volunteer says the shelters continue to take a toll on the dog’s mental health as new noises, unfamiliar faces and barks are introduced to them daily.
“The shelter environment is a constant stimulus,” says Harris. “They’ll catch a new smell, or they’ll catch a new noise or there will be a different pitch in somebody’s bark that could potentially be signaling that they’re in stress, and then it’s sending stress out essentially into the shelter.”
Hoping to relieve the dogs from anxiety, Harris has grown a fondness for a 70-pound Staffordshire terrier cross, Hank, as she volunteers to take him out on her visits to the shelter.
Residing at the shelter since November, Harris says Hank is beginning to feel the distress of excessive noises and his confined kennel space.
“[Pitbulls] are typically high energy dogs, they are very athletic, very smart and staying in a kennel for a long period of time is really stressful,” Harris says. “Hank is definitely feeling the effects of that, typically a lot of our dogs that are under stress end up losing some weight, even though the food schedule isn’t any different as if they were at home, but it’s just the stress of being alone [and] staying at the shelter, it tends to take a toll on their body.”
Dianne Witter, a San Marcos resident and first-time volunteer of Dog’s Day Out, says the program offers the dogs to enjoy life in a new light.
“My favorite part was seeing their joy at just discovering simple things that we take for granted, that other dogs take for granted just the simple things in life,” Witter says. “Going to the park, air conditioning, getting a puppuccino, just discovering those things for the first time.”
Spending her Easter Sunday taking out a rescue dog, Rainbow, around the San Marcos community, Witter says Rainbow enjoyed her time out of the shelter’s environment.
“We went and sat by the river and walked around the park,” Witter says. “She had been a street dog her whole life, she never had a person before and the things we were doing were a first for her, so it was really cool seeing her experience it for the first time. She rolled on her back in the grass, got up on a picnic table and just enjoyed being out in the world.”
For Witter, living with three cats in a one-bedroom home, the opportunity to spend time with Rainbow without the full commitment of taking her back home is the ideal solution.
“[Dog’s Day Out] is a great low commitment way to help out the shelter and help out the dogs without having to put a lot of time, effort and resources into it,” Witter says. “It’s a great experience for the dogs, they’re cooped in the kennel so it gets them more socialization and gets them out and about.”
Whether you want to adopt or simply spend your day with some slobbery smiles and kisses, Dog’s Day Out is a great way to get active in the community and lend your time and hearts to dogs in need.