Over extended periods of time, shelter life starts to impact the mental and physical wellbeing of the dogs residing there. Recently, six shelter dogs in Arlington, Virginia, got the chance to get outside for the day and do what they do best...be dogs! All of this is thanks to a group of men and women who already make sacrifices for their community every day.
The Arlington County Fire Department has over 300 uniformed employees, and a group of very special firefighters who decided to combine their physical training with community service.
The idea originated with Taylor Blunt, a firefighter and paramedic in the department. “I was thinking of ways that we could do some community service ... and figured that reaching out to the local animal shelter would be a really good idea,” says Blunt. “As a crew, we work out every day to maintain physical strength. And we figured, ‘Why not take the dogs out for a run, too?’”
So the fire department teamed up with the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA) to give the shelter dogs some socialization, exercise, and community exposure while the firefighters stay in peak condition. Blunt brought the idea to Chelsey Lindsay, the AWLA communications director.
Lindsey states, "I was like, ‘Sure thing. Come on over! At first, I thought it would have to be like walking one or two at a time, but we actually had six dogs that got along really well. It was so cute to see them all in a line — Chihuahua, husky, pit bull, Chihuahua mix, papillon, Staffordshire terrier — different kinds of dogs all in the big group together.”
The six shelter dogs that were part of the first day of training were Levi, Maybelline, Sasha, Naomi, Dory, and BB. As expected, they loved the walk and being in the great outdoors!
“We took them out for at least an hour, and took them out to the park,” Blunt said. “They could hang out together with us and smell the smells. We ran with them on sprints, and then they got so tired that they laid out on the grass. It was great.”
The firefighters also benefitted from the time spent with the shelter dogs. Blunt explains, “It’s also really good for us. I can’t have a dog right now, but I’ll tell you what — it’s very, very nice to be able to walk a shelter dog because they deserve it and they need it.”
Lindsey agrees with Blunt that both groups get a lot out of the experience. “[The firefighters] were getting their exercise and so were the dogs,” she said. “And then people see all these different types of dogs ... as individuals. It makes the dogs seem more like normal dogs — not ‘shelter dogs,'" she says.
The Arlington County Fire Department intends to continue their runs with the shelter dogs, and a group, led by Blunt, is also planning on volunteering at the shelter in their spare time. “I know the shelter loves it because it gets the dogs outside, and it gets them all tired out,” Blunt said. “And obviously, it’s good for the dogs. It makes them happier, and they can get adopted more quickly with happier faces.”
With the help of the fire department, Maybelline has since been adopted! That's great news, but the other five dogs are still looking for forever homes. Check out the AWLA Facebook page if you can give one of these loving pups a dream come true. Please share this story with your family and friends on Facebook.