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Because Animals Matter: Orvis Dog Enrichment Grant Report

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

Interactive toys/chews
Snuffle mats that we assembled with the help of volunteers
Training/exercise aids
Sensory enrichment
Dietary support — specifically to promote weight and muscle gain and improve general food consumption on low-weight dogs we took into care
Non-medical physical care

Our facility is relatively unique in that we allow all dogs (unless they require crate rest, are being quarantined, or are unaltered and need separate free time) indoor and outdoor free-play when our volunteers are on site. With only two shifts a day, however, that can lead to many hours kenneled. Receiving this grant award allowed for our implementation of a daily schedule where dogs have regular access to safe hard chews, interactive toys, different sensory enrichment through oil diffusion in the facility each day, and mentally stimulating meals with kibble served on/in the snuffle mats we put together.

In particular, some of the larger dogs in our care had shown toy aggression around other dogs before we implemented the project. After a more regimented routine and more physical and mental stimulation, it was as if those dogs no longer felt the need to hoard or solely possess toys.

We have found that some of our dogs have been downright too smart for a couple of the puzzle toys we got, but we can shift them to something different and more challenging as a result of having access to funding that allowed for multiple types and "levels" of toys to be purchased.

This grant also supported one of our community outreach programs by giving us access to better/safer training and exercise aids in martingale collars and shorter (and more comfortable to hold) leashes. These tools are now used by our community volunteers who visit That BAM Place to participate in our Canine Companion Club. This program allows for Club-approved dogs at our facility to go on hikes, walks, trips to the dog park, and sleepovers. We know the dogs are safer and our volunteers have had better results in controlling and training dogs on walks. Reports from Club participants since getting the new martingales and shorter leashes are that they feel the dogs are managed easily.

The grant has also saved us from extra veterinary expenses through the purchase of rubber dog "boots" for one of our puppies whom we took in with a broken leg. The break required a splint and bandage wrap and was requiring regular replacement to avoid other issues as a result of the puppy stepping in water and peeing on it. Extra splinting and wound care was no longer an issue once we purchased the boots; regular access to the outdoors was also then available without concern.

How many pets did this grant help?

27 to date

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

Louie (first and second photos) is a senior Chihuahua mix who came into our care from a Southern California shelter. He was receiving no interest from the public because he just stood around, seeming lost much of the time. Once he joined us at That BAM Place, we soon learned that he had skin, eye, and kidney issues. While all of these things were manageable and treatments began, Louie still acted off and fearful of the other dogs in the facility. When it came to free-play, Louie would choose to stay in his safe space.

After making and testing just one large snuffle mat, we decided to make a smaller one for Louie. Though we just poured his kibble on top that first night, it was like he lit up. The next day it was as if a switch had gone off for him; Louie voluntarily left his kennel and joined the other dogs in the office and free-play area. It seemed clear at that point that a simple toy or act of enrichment could not only help a dog spend time safely and make for a more satisfying experience in our facility, but that it can engage the brain and even make a dog more confident.

Unfortunately, Louie’s story doesn’t have a successful adoption at the end. His kidney disease does not allow him to be put under sedation safely, and he is now in pain from a tumor that has ruptured and cannot be removed. We will be saying goodbye to him tomorrow. Louie has made tremendous strides for an old, partially deaf and blind dog in the two and a half months that he has called That BAM Place home. We feel like this is primarily a result of the enrichment tools that engaged his other senses and made the world a more inviting place.

Further Reading