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TUESDAY, JANUARY 2, 2007
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Calvin Ellison walks a dog at the Decatur Animal Shelter. The shelter needs volunteers to walk its dogs twice a day.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Calvin Ellison walks a dog at the Decatur Animal Shelter. The shelter needs volunteers to walk its dogs twice a day.

An exercise companion
Decatur Animal Shelter seeks volunteer dog walkers

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com· 340-2395

Looking for a little exercise but hate to walk alone?

The Decatur Animal Shelter has dozens of four-legged friends eager to take their paws outside, and all they need are volunteers to attach a leash to a dog-walking program the shelter started recently.

The shelter wants to make the dogs more adoptable, and walking them briefly every day will help them become house trained, more accustomed to humans and more comfortable with a leash, said Mindy Gilbert, program and project consultant for the shelter. And getting outside to exercise will help the dogs tolerate and be less stressed by the confinement of the cages, she added.

“Another thing is that when you get regular dog walkers, they in turn get to know those animals and start to telling their friends about them,” Gilbert said. “It develops another network for outreach for letting people know what kind of animals we have and how terrific they are.”

The shelter started the program a month ago and has used city inmates to walk the dogs, mostly in the morning.

Gilbert said volunteers would allow dogs to spend more time outside and get a second walk in the afternoon.

The walking hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The shelter has a small courtyard and an unfenced run along the railroad tracks for walking. Gilbert said the lack of a park-like space is a drawback, but she hopes to have a good base of volunteers in place when the shelter moves to Wilson Morgan Park, which has a walking trail around a lake.

“My vision is when we get over to the park and we have regular dog-walking volunteers, they become sort of the sales rep for that dog that they’re walking,” she said.

Because the program uses only friendly dogs suitable for adoption, Gilbert said, the dog walking is ideal for youths.

She hopes to get school service clubs to volunteer as part of their requirement for community service.

The shelter also seeks volunteers to play with cats.

The volunteers don’t need to take the dogs for long walks, as even giving them 10 minutes will help them, Gilbert said.

“You don’t even have to walk them,” she said. “You can just play with them. The more people they are accustomed to, the more well rounded they are.”

To volunteer or get more information, call 341-4797.

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