Dog field trips in Edinburg, Texas
On a recent Saturday afternoon, Chippy, a good-natured dog from the Palm Valley Animal Center (PVAC) in Edinburg, Texas, got a much-needed break from the shelter. He spent a day walking around town with Tina Johnson, making new friends and taking in the sun.
Eventually Chippy and Tina ended up at a dog-friendly brew pub where they sat outside and relaxed. Chippy treated himself to a big bowl of water before falling asleep at Tina’s feet.
It was an all-around good day for Chippy, one of the first dogs to take part in an innovative new program at the shelter. The Tails Around Town program pairs up dog-loving people from the community with dogs from PVAC who have been there longer than most, so they can get a break from the shelter. It’s not only a welcome break for the dogs, it can also help them get adopted.
Making it easy to help shelter dogs
The program, designed to make it easy for the community to get involved, was inspired by a Maddie’s Fund workshop attended by PVAC staff and volunteers to learn about foster field trip programs. People can come to the shelter whenever it’s open, sign in at the front desk and take selected dogs out for walks, hikes, a trip to the park — whatever they choose to do.
“There are some basic do’s and don’ts,” says volunteer Chelsea Hughes, who helped launch the program after taking part in the workshop. “But anyone with a valid driver’s license can come in and take a dog out. Many people have come in to take part in the program without having ever volunteered with PVAC before.”
Short-term dog foster program with big impact
Mike Bricker, Best Friends manager of lifesaving operations who works at PVAC to help the shelter increase its save rate, says that Tails Around Town impacts dogs in a variety of ways. “It’s helping our dogs get more exposure, enrichment and adoption opportunities than they’ve ever had before,” he says.
For example, a dog named Nebula had a great day when she took part in the program. Not only did she spend time sunbathing at the Edinburg Municipal Park, but she also got to visit Home Depot, where she made new friends, and Starbucks for a “puppuccino.” But Nebula’s real treat was after she returned to the PVAC. She was renewed after a day away from the shelter. That relaxed and happy attitude was hard to ignore, and soon after her outing, she was adopted.
Dog report cards
Tails Around Town also provides potential adopters with helpful information about each dog, thanks to “report cards” filled out after every outing by volunteers. Nebula’s report card, for example, showed that she is a model student with high marks for her leash skills. The volunteers noted she was “very sweet and likes petting and hugs.”
The cards also contain feedback for the staff, so they can create detailed “get-to-know-me” write-ups that are displayed next to each dog’s kennel.
Making a difference in Texas
For people who want to spend time with dogs from PVAC outside of the shelter, but who can’t foster, Tails Around Town is the perfect fit. “It is such a great opportunity for people who can’t make a foster commitment,” says Chelsea. “Now there are more ways for them to make a difference.”
Sometimes an outing leads to a foster home. After having that great day with Chippy, Tina decided to keep the good times rolling by stepping up to foster him, fully aware that her decision may have saved his life.
Today Chippy is enjoying life with Tina and her dogs until he gets adopted. “At the end of the day, I’m happy knowing I’m doing something good for dogs in my community,” says Tina.
Photos courtesy of Palm Valley Animal Center, Mark Vecchio Pet Photography, Chelsea Hughes and Tina Johnson