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Saving Grace Pet Adoption Center: Dogs Playing for Life Mentorship Grant Report

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

Grant funds paid the tuition for Destiny Bennett to attend the Dogs Playing for Life mentorship in Longmont, Colorado.

Destiny Bennett gained a great deal of knowledge on how to implement playgroups through the mentorship. Though an animal-care tech when she attended, Destiny was promoted to kennel manager within two weeks of her return to the shelter. Destiny described the experience as having completely changed her perspective on caring for dogs in a shelter. Not only did she learn how to conduct playgroups, she also learned that, through playgroups, we can save more animals by getting a better assessment of barrier reactions and dog-dog interactions. Prior to attending, behavioral assessments of dog aggression were performed only with leashed dogs. Dogs showing aggression during these assessments were often euthanized. Based on the training, assessment of dog aggression can be done safely without barriers giving a skewed perspective on the dog's true behavior. Destiny is teaching the staff and volunteers to look beyond the barrier frustration to see the dog's true personality. We now place these dogs on the adoption floor, and convey information about barrier-based behavior to potential adopters and encourage them to meet the dog outside the kennel.

Learning how to safely conduct playgroups has, of course, given us the ability to get dogs out for socialization and exercise. This has reduced stress and barking in the kennels, improving conditions for all the dogs and making the kennels more appealing for potential adopters to linger. Playgroups have kept dogs from getting kennel-stressed during extended stays.

Destiny’s experience during the mentorship gave her the skills to better know the shelter dogs and facilitate meet-and-greets with potential adopters’ current dogs. Thus we have discouraged several problematic matches, with the confidence that our dog could safely and sanely wait for the right home – and we recognized a good match when that family arrived.

Beyond these dog-specific skills, Destiny’s participation has given her additional leadership skills, taught her better teamwork skills with strangers including communicating as a leader, offered her the chance to experience another animal shelter and spend time among dog trainers. Playgroups have provided a better setting for teaching dog behavior to staff, building volunteer involvement, and improving the public’s perception of shelter care. Destiny’s mentorship has been a catalyst for tremendous improvement at Saving Grace. We are very grateful, and have renewed energy for continuing our efforts.

How many pets did this grant help?

Directly, at least 50 dogs have benefited thus far. This number continues to grow as playgroups continue, and the indirect benefits to other dogs are innumerable.

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

Artemis was surrendered by her owner in a basket muzzle. Her owner stated that she couldn’t digest food properly and would eat anything without the muzzle. Without vet records supporting this claim, we evaluated the emaciated dog and started her on a re-feeding regimen. During this slow process, Artemis was able to go out to play. For the young husky/saluki mix, exercise and socialization were vital to keeping her happy and socialized. Though she was extremely stressed when she first arrived, Artemis’s behavior improved during her stay, as did her health. After almost six weeks in our care, Artemis was declared ready for adoption. Today, in fact, was her adoption day! Artemis had a very successful meet-and-greet with two senior dachshunds. They were less than excited about meeting such a large, bouncy dog, but Artemis had learned a great deal in playgroups and respected their rebuff. She turned her playful attentions to the humans, and a match was made! Thank you for the training to implement playgroups, which gave our staff (and our dogs) the skills to save lives like Artemis’s.

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