I met Trevor today, shortly after walking into the Bella Vista Animal Shelter and applying to work with their project dogs. A project dog is one that is in need of one-on-one time with non-staff humans in order to be prepared for adoption. I saw the BVAC’s Facebook announcement that they were looking for project dog volunteers the other day, so I headed over to sign up and check it out.
One of my goals as a professional petsitter and dogwalker this year is to eventually start offering Behavior Modification. I have been able to connect with previously skittish dogs and have seen their personalities completely change over time. It’s a mission of mine to help address behavioral issues and work with my clients on it.
But my boss told me that I need to walk about 100 dogs before I can start doing this type of work – because after that, I will be familiar with most dog personalities. I walked in just having an idea of what I was getting in for, and I know I certainly have my work cut out for me!
Trevor is a very sweet dog and is really good to the staff. I was also told he behaved well on walks. I was given the leash, directed to the trail and off we went. Almost immediately I knew I was in for a task.
Trevor constantly pulled on his leash. He pulled us off the trail and into tall grass, thorns and fallen trees on the way to a creek. He was extremely strong next to me. Eventually I was able to get us back on the path and we went to the creek to chill out. I sat down and he immediately kissed me on the cheek. It was wonderful!
While at the creek, a 24-year volunteer showed up with Bess, another project dog who is a beautiful black lab and is friends with Trevor. They got to hang out together, get their leashes crossed, and Bess’s handler and I got to talking about why we were each there at the shelter.
Bess walked off, and Trevor got anxious. I tried to control him, and I thought I had him calm enough that I could snap a beautiful Instagram photo on the creek. But as soon as I eased my grip on the leash, Trevor darted away on the trail! I wasn’t too scared, because I had a feeling he just wanted to go back and see Bess, and sure enough, Trevor had been easily retrieved by Bess’s handler. That will teach me to get my phone out when working with a project dog!
I did finally manage to get some video on our way back.
Trevor and I made it back up the trail and sat down together on a bench. I was so glad he let me pet him even after I was told he only trusts staff.
I plan to go again tomorrow after walking a Bella Vista client. I don’t know if I will see Trevor again, or if they’ll give me another dog to work with. But I know I have a lot of work to do before I delve into a new dimension of work.
Check with your local animal shelter – there’s a guarantee the dogs need to be walked; with all that time they spend in kennels, they need to be exercised regularly and could likely use your help if you’re willing to be patient – and willing to be pulled!