Every week since July, Tracy Noll and her family volunteer at Pets Come First for the Luv’N a Pittie program, where they “get a dose of dog.”
The dogs she works with benefit from the program, too.
Pets Come First is a Centre Hall nonprofit dedicated to placing stray and unwanted animals into permanent homes. Deb Warner, the shelter manager and founder of Luv’N a Pittie, said the program is for all breeds of dogs, not just pit bulls. It’s designed to give the shelter’s dogs an opportunity to socialize with other dogs and their handlers, along with developing a consistent exercise routine to make them more adoptable.
“It’s amazing because, when people walk in, they see these dogs and they say, ‘Oh, they’re all aggressive.’ But you get them out of the kennels and they’re like different dogs,” Warner said.
Once out of the kennels, volunteers walk the dogs roughly 15 minutes and also complete an agility training. Warner said there is a volunteer group from Huntingdon that walks the dogs twice a week.
For Noll, who doesn’t have a dog of her own, it’s about helping the dogs on their journey toward adoption.
“We do it because these dogs don’t put their best face forward whenever they’re penned up all the time. You go down through and they seem like they’re crazy beasts, but once you get them out for a walk, they’re a totally different dog. They calm down and it makes them a high-quality, adoptable dog,” Noll said. “And for anybody that exercises it helps you get your 10,000 steps real easy.”
The dogs are typically walked alone, but Warner said the program is attempting to walk them with other dogs to give the dogs an even greater opportunity to socialize and interact with others to make them more adoptable. The year-old program, however, still gets “a lot” of dogs returned.
Warner attributed the high rate of returns to owners who are unwilling to listen to advice that would create a better situation for both them and the dogs.
“People don’t listen to us — it’s so frustrating,” she said. “People will take them home and we’ll say, ‘OK, this is what you’re going to have to deal with.’ I’ve actually gotten to the point where I tell people, ‘Shut your house down for three weeks. Don’t take the dog anywhere, bond with the dogs, get training and get control of the situation.’ And people don’t listen.”
In order to find happier homes for the dogs, Warner said she would like to see more volunteers who are willing to work with the dogs. People tell her they’re interested in volunteering, but they often don’t follow through.
“We want to get people that really want to be involved. They’ve gotta be committed. They come one time and go, ‘Oh, this is too much work,’ and then they leave,” Warner said. “We’re really looking for that committed group of people that do it for the love of the dogs.”