Dog Walking Fieldtrips

Molly (the  dog) and Becca had a great time bonding on our Field Trip!

Molly (the dog) and Becca had a great time bonding on our Field Trip!

I have found the magic formula for getting my kids to be EXCITED about going for a family walk—take along a dog from the St. Hubert’s Dog Field Trip Program! And this magic formula is not just a one-time thing—my kids have happily gone on three 2-mile-long walks in the past two weekends! I know! Incredible! It’s a miracle!

St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison has recently launched its Dog Field Trip Program, which allows members of the public to take a dog out of the shelter and enjoy some time together while promoting the dog for adoption. (The dogs wear an '“Adopt Me” vest.”) People can take the dog out during their lunch break, go on a stroll through a park or downtown, take a car trip, take the dog home to watch some TV together, bring the dog to the office, or do anything else, as long as it is fun and safe for the dog.

On our first trip to St. Hubert’s, we started out by filling in a basic form which included questions about our comfort level and experience with different types of dogs. Then the St. Hubert’s worker went through the photos and profiles of the approved dogs in the folder. Each dog was marked with a color dot to basically show how strong they are. All the dogs had been tested and approved as good at walking on the leash, but some were bigger/stronger/faster than others. Though I had dogs growing up and felt comfortable with them, I felt I should start out with an “easy” dog on our first walk. Though all the “easy” dogs were either on a walk at the moment, or had been out a few times already, we felt comfortable taking out a “medium” dog, an adorable black seven-year-old dog named Roxci. The worker brought Roxci out to us, with her harness, leash, and “Adopt Me” vest already on. She came with her favorite green squishy ball in her mouth, too.

After my husband, daughter, and I got a quick tutorial on how to walk the dog, a few poop bags and info cards to pass out if anyone had an interest in adopting Roxci, and a reminder that only people age 18 and up should hold the leash, we tried to snap a few photos, but Roxci was too eager to get out the door for her walk. It really amazed me at how comfortable she was going on a walk with complete strangers! She was completely unfazed! She just wanted to go, go GO!

So, off we went! Since we have multiple allergic family members, we opted to not take her in the car or home, but, instead, walked from St. Hubert’s, over Woodland Road, and into Loantaka. We could definitely tell Roxci was enjoying herself, and we were, too! She kept up a quick pace the whole time (despite her stocky build), and only stopped so she could sniff under the leaves. (Her little grunts as she sniffed were adorable!) I think we must have walked at least 2 miles, and none of us even noticed since we were having so much fun watching Roxci!

The next Saturday, my daughter and I headed out again. This time, we were paired up with Molly.(Roxci had been out twice already that day.) Molly was three years old, and must have been part hound—she had beautiful long silky ears and adorable brown eyebrows. She was much leaner than Roxci, and definitely quicker, too. As another dog approached, we kept her to the side on a short leash, as we had been instructed. She didn’t even bother with the other dog! No barking, no pulling, no growling. So good! When we returned to St. Hubert’s, one of the workers asked me how vocal she was on the walk. I told them she didn’t bark a single time, even when we came across another dog on the trail. They told me that she barks all the time in the shelter, and that this just shows how stressed she must be in the shelter, and the importance of getting the dogs out for individual time.

The next day, Sunday, the whole family (2 kids, husband, and me) headed back for yet another fieldtrip. This time, we took our Ziva, who, despite her estimated age of 9, was the quickest of them all so far! My son loved running beside her to make her run more quickly (and me, too, since I was holding the leash!). She was so happy to be out and, just like the others, didn’t seem to care who took her out, just enjoyed her time to explore.

Each of these dogs was so sweet, happy, and so great on a leash! We’ll definitely be heading back soon. On a rainy day or a day we don’t want much exercise, we look forward to spending time playing with Butterfly. Butterfly currently is on medication for heartworms so she cannot go on long walks, but she can really benefit from some personal playtime. UPDATE: I just saw on the St. Hubert’s Facebook Page that Butterfly has been adopted! Hooray!

One-on-one time is something all these dogs need. While they are very well taken care of at St. Hubert’s, this program gives the dogs a chance to be away from the pack, to just enjoy time out, enjoying the smells and attention that all dogs deserve.

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St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center is located at 575 Woodland Ave, Madison, NJ. (973) 377-2295 www.sthuberts.org Field trip hours: Sun to Tues 9am-4pm; Wed to Sat 9am-6pm. Questions: contact Matt at mwildman@sthuberts.org