By WHS Volunteer, Dolores Hamilton
A few months ago, I received an email introducing a new volunteering option at the Washington Humane Society - running with shelter dogs. I've been volunteering for a while at WHS, doing things like attending adoption events and walking some of the dogs around the neighborhood - but this was different. It gave us volunteers the opportunity to interact with the animals in a less "artificial" environment. Since I was in desperate need of exercise, this initiative also served a dual purpose.
The first PACK (People & Animal Cardio Klub) run I attended was on a wonderfully sunny Saturday morning. Several volunteers attended - some quite fit, and some, well, like me. And several adoptable dogs from both the Georgia Ave. and New York Ave. Adoption Centers attended as well - some svelte, and some a bit more...voluptuous. But for all of us there was one common goal - to run 3 miles around Hains Point. Our run seemed to mimic an old, yet trusty, car engine - we started off a bit shaky and awkward-like, every being looking for their place in the pack, but after a few minutes of running, we were making sweet music. We looked as though we'd done this run every day. Thanks to the smart thinking of WHS staff members, we were provided with a water station, where the dogs took full advantage in their efforts to press onward.
Towards the end, the dogs, like me, could sense when we were nearing the finish line. There was utter jubilation upon our arrival (we even had a cheering squad at the ready to greet us). I must admit, the most exciting and rewarding part was seeing these dogs, who are normally filled with pent-up energy, exhausted after the run, laying near the water bowls, savoring their victory of having completed such a huge feat. This PACK run provided the dogs with much needed exercise, interaction with a pack of people and dogs alike, and publicity (who can ignore a group of folk runing with fabulous dogs sporting neon orange "adopt me" vests?). And yet, I think the benefits to the human runners far outweighed those of our shelter dogs - do you know how rewarding it is to see a dog smile?
Interested in joining Washington Humane Society's PACK? Contact the Behavior & Training Dept. at 202.723.5730 ext. 122 or email AsktheTrainer@washhumane.org for further details!