Dog Day Out lets caged canines stretch their legs

Photos by Tegan Johnston/The Herald
Zach Buechlein of Jasper, 17, rubbed 8-month-old Kate's tummy while walking her along the river walk during the Dubois County Humane Society's Dog Day Out on Sunday afternoon in Jasper. The Dubois County Humane Society allows people to come to the shelter and check out a dog between 4:30-6:30 p.m. on Sundays.

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

JASPER — It’s a horrible feeling, wanting so badly to leave my kennel but constantly being reminded of what happened to me outside of it. I was kicked and abused by my former owner before I called the Dubois County Humane Society home.

My name is Piper. I am a coonhound mix that has lived at the shelter since January.

Even on Sundays, my favorite day of the week, these feelings of joy and fear compete until something gives. I could see the waves of people filing in and out of the facility’s back room Sunday and I wondered, “Will someone pick me?”

Every Sunday is Dog Day Out at the Dubois County Human Society. Anyone over the age of 16 (human years) is welcome to visit and check out one of the Humane Society’s eligible dogs for two hours of free, unrestricted fun starting at 4:30 p.m. The shelter currently houses 24 hounds.

We get to go to places like Rural King for doggie treats, local parks for a walk outside our normal stomping grounds or even just back to visitors’ houses to play with their pets.

My neighbors Luke — a black retriever mix — and Bryce — a brown Boxer mix — had already had their gates opened on Sunday afternoon, had been leashed, and then led out into that big world by their afternoon visitors. But I was still anxiously circling my kennel.

Then I saw my former foster mom and shelter volunteer Marīa Cummins open my gate with a group of people standing behind her. I slowly slunk forward and sniffed her hand. Then I turned around and shot through the dog door that connects my interior kennel to an outside enclosure.

I took a deep breath. I knew I could do it.

From left, Shelby Waltz of Petersburg, 18, Jenna Thompson of Petersburg, 18, Kallie Davis of Otwell, 18, and Kyleigh Earls of Otwell, 10, walked Piper and Briar along the Riverwalk during the Dubois County Humane Society's Dog Day Out on Sunday afternoon in Jasper.

I walked back inside and met my new friend, Shelby Waltz of Petersburg. We went to the Jasper Riverwalk, and afterwards she said she’s going to come back soon to spend even more time with me.

“She was a really, really sweet dog,” Waltz said. “She pulled a lot and she was so shy at first. I really liked Piper, so we’ll probably end up getting her sometime again.”

Yesterday, joy won for Piper.

The Dog Day Out program has operated at the shelter since the beginning of 2016. Cummins said the program is great for anyone who wants to interact with the canines without committing to adoption or fostering. It gets the dogs into new environments and makes them happier animals.

“At night, when they’re done and they’re laying here, they’ll actually dream,” Cummins said, explaining how the dogs kick and bark in their sleep on Sunday evenings after their days out.

Weekly participation varies depending on the weather, but Cummins said if it’s nice outside, the shelter will clear out. All of the Humane Society’s Dog Day Out eligible dogs were taken out yesterday, a trend Dubois County Humane Society Board President Andrea Hedinger said the shelter has experienced for the past five weeks.

Though the program isn’t directly tied to adoption, Hedinger said some of the dogs have found their forever homes through it.

Zach Buechlein of Jasper, 17, sat with Clive for a moment before returning him to the shelter during the Dubois County Humane Society's Dog Day Out on Sunday afternoon in Jasper.

“A lot of people come and participate in the program because they can’t have a dog right now,” Hedinger said. “They might live in an apartment or have too many other animals at home. We do have a few people that come and then fall in love with a dog or foster and get more involved with it.”

Zach Buechlein of Jasper has participated in the program every week for a little over a month now. Yesterday, he checked out a beagle named Clive, who he also took to the Riverwalk.

“It’s just a fun opportunity to get to know them better,” he said of the dogs.

Cummins said the shelter has not had any reports of the dogs acting aggressively toward their temporary owners. Some might be shy or overly excited before they leave their kennels, but they warm up to their human counterparts quickly.

Though a cat program does not currently exist, feline lovers can visit the shelter during operating hours and play with cats in a designated kitty room.

The Dubois County Humane Society can be reached at 812-482-7387 and on its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/duboiscountyhumanesociety.




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