Our grant money was used for an additional fencing section so that we could properly introduce the dogs when they enter our play yard. The additional fencing has allowed for a much smoother transition for our staff and volunteers and the dogs when entering the play yard for playgroup. It allows for a secure barrier for dogs to meet through the fence. Playgroup leads can easily assess body language and look for any signs of agitation or aggression safely.
We run playgroups one to two times a day while we’re open to the public for adoptions. It gives potential adopters the ability to see dogs be dogs. It showcases personalities and play styles that can’t be seen within a kennel. We adopt at least one to two dogs out of our Saturday playgroups each weekend.
Meet Canada. Canada came into our shelter on Jan. 2, 2019, as an owner surrender due to her “not liking children.” Her previous owners had a baby, “didn’t feel comfortable” with Canada’s size and brought her to us. She was a 10-month-old, 48-lb. Catahoula mix whose world was shattered. She didn’t understand what she did or why she was here and just completely shut down. She was quiet, reserved, and closed off — never aggressive, just sad (first photo). She didn’t want to come out of her kennel. After a couple of days, she began to understand that our staff and volunteers wanted to help her. Her head lifted a bit. She’d walk with a little more confidence during her leash time, but would look for her people any time she was outside.
After she’d been in the shelter four days (during which we had some extreme weather), we brought her out for playgroup. Her demeanor changed and her spirit lifted. She was curious. She was interested in the smells, fresh air and the sun on her face. She didn’t play a lot at first. She cautiously walked the yard and said hello if approached. The other dogs respected her boundaries and let her slowly put her guard down. She just laid down and watched. That was okay by everyone. It was cold, so Play Yard Day 1 (second and third photos) was short but satisfying.
Play Yard Day 2 was so much better (fourth, fifth and sixth photos). She remembered what she had done the day before and actually looked forward to entering the yard. She immediately interacted with the other dogs. She had a trot in her step and held her head high. She began to play. She’d even gotten over her biggest hurdle: She didn’t look for her people this time. She just enjoyed her surroundings and her new friends. Her daily playgroup time was the highlight of her day. She continued to improve each and every day.
One of our daily Facebook videos of playgroups featured Canada, and caught the attention of one of our local rescues. On Jan. 11, 2019, Canada was pulled into Big Dog Rescue Project out of Little Rock, AR. She has since been adopted through the rescue. The final two photos show Canada in her new home. Without her playgroup exposure, this sweet, deserving young lady would not have had the opportunity to trust, relax and just be a dog.