BY DANIELLE DYER
A shelter is a safe place during the downs sometimes life deals. It offers temporary comforts during displacement due to mother nature or protective refuge from bad or dangerous situations. Why, then, when you put the word “dog” or “animal” in front of “shelter” do tear-jerking images of caged, malnourished and wounded animals appear in your mind while an airy-voiced female sings a simple pop song in the background? Sadly, it’s true that horrible things happen in our community to our innocent furry friends. But this is not the majority of the animals that come through our doors. And feeling sorry or pitying the animals for what they have gone through does not help them recover or succeed any faster.
One of our wonderful volunteer dog walkers recently commented after bringing a pup back into the dog shelter, “The dogs are always so eager to come back in that they pull as soon as we get close to the front door!” You know why? Because we are a shelter! We offer the comforts of quality food, a warm bed, mental and physical enrichments, socialization, and we treat them like the best dogs ever, regardless of their past. Our furry visitors deserve a fresh start, a clean slate, and to be surrounded by happy, positive energy. Sure, the shelter dogs will give you the oversized eyes and head tilt, but you know why? Because they know there are dozens of bags of treats that suckers like you will eagerly hand out while visiting them! And go ahead, we encourage that. Because a dog shelter isn’t a prison or a sad, cold row of cages where dogs wait every day to be chosen. At least it shouldn’t be. Here at Harmony, it isn’t. Many of our adopted dogs come back to visit frequently as part of our dog daycare program and social boarding facility. While they visit their old place of shelter, they encourage the current rescue dogs that soon it will be their turn. At least that’s the story we tell.
People surrender their dogs for a number of reasons: financial hardship, HOA regulations, an owner’s passing or relocating to a nursing home. The dogs absolutely mourn the loss of their person or their family and the transition stage can range from a couple hours to a couple weeks. We help during this stage by offering calm and confident care that is consistent and positive. We encourage the process of returning back to normal then growth. While dogs do not have the wide range of emotions many humans often place on them, they do have the potential to fall into a depression if given the opportunity to do nothing but sleep and stare at the corner of a wall. Therefore, we carefully monitor the shelter dogs by having strong communication with each other and keeping a close eye on behavioral changes. As soon as a dog is fixed, vaccinated, and deemed healthy by a veterinarian, we integrate them into one of our social dog packs and work with them one-on-one. By doing this, we get to know each dog as an individual and can learn what home situation would be best for their forever family who is out there waiting for them. Happy around kids? Cats? Small dogs? Big dogs? Chickens? Likes car rides? Hikes? Couches? Counter surfing?
We want to replace the image of a dog shelter to a happy place where dogs are flourishing until the perfect home finds them. In the meantime, don’t feel bad for them; they’re doing just fine. You may have a hard time beating the lifestyle they have while with us! In order to maintain the high quality of care we give, our numbers will always be low. We will keep our pack around 25 dogs at a time. You can still help by donating to build the awesome dog shelter as the dogs are still in boarding. It’s not a terrible place to be, but the shelter dogs deserve a place of their own. And until then, they will be enjoying their time at this happy, little dog shelter.