Shelter Dog’s Day Off

One shelter gives dogs a break—they get to spend time outside the gates.

Photos by Marissa DePino

Video by Meg Johnson

A black labrador retriever runs in the distance, tail wagging and tongue flopping as he chases after a frisbee in Bailey’s Bark Park. He is surrounded by toys, like a peanut butter-covered Kong and a boatload of tennis balls—he is enjoying having the park all to himself. His name is Auggie.

“He’s really adorable and super energetic,” Te Hall, the Animal Rescue League training class coordinator, says. At 9 months old, this pup is staying at an Iowa animal shelter waiting to find his new home.

“I kind of fell for her right away and was really surprised again, because I kind of had a picture of the dog I wanted to adopt.” —Jordan Powers

Auggie isn’t the only pup calling an animal shelter his home. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), it is estimated that 3.3 million dogs like Auggie are sheltered each year. Of the 3.3 million dogs, only a small handful are housed at the Animal Rescue League in Iowa (ARL), and their number is constantly changing. With so many sheltered pups, programs are taking form to get the dogs out of the shelter, if only for a few hours.

Auggie plays with guests in Bailey’s Bark Park.

“It’s really good for them to get out of the shelter, too,” Hall says. “We try to make it as comfortable as possible, but obviously this isn’t a home for them, and so it can still be stressful. So getting people to come and take these dogs out and go enjoy being outside and going for walks or hikes and going to Starbucks and PetSmart is a great thing for these dogs.”

The ARL is one of several Midwestern shelters with a program to take a dog out for the day like the Dubois County Humane Society in Indiana. The ARL’s Dog’s Day Out program was inspired by a Hawaiian shelter that allowed vacationers to play with a dog for a day.

One couple found their dog through the ARL program. “I had kind of been missing having a dog quite a bit,” Jordan Powers, a communications manager and blogger in Des Moines, says. “So I had been doing some research on shelters and keeping an eye on dogs and just kind of putting feelers out there to kind of see what was going on.”

Powers found the Dog’s Day Out program online and decided it was the closest she could get to having an actual dog at the time. So Powers and her husband took a pitbull mix dog named Hilda out on a hike, though they hadn’t planned on adopting.

“I kind of fell for her right away and was really surprised again, because I kind of had a picture of the dog I wanted to adopt,” Powers says. “But she was great when we were hiking. She kept up with us. She had a lot of personality…”

The two adopted Hilda several days later, changing her name to Corre, or Rae for short. This is just one success story from the program.

“I would say there is a pretty good success rate with it,” Hall says. “There’s been people where they’ve taken the dog out and ended up adopting it, or we always encourage people to take pictures when they are taking the animal out.” The program provides interaction with the dogs so future pet-owners can decide if they are compatible to adopt.

To learn more about adopting a dog like Auggie, visit your local shelter. The ARL, based in Des Moines is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on weekends from 8 to 11 a.m.

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