You hear the howls, the barks, the whimpers of dogs in their chainlink kennels when you walk into an animal shelter. Then you lock eyes with a dog and his ears perk, his head tilts, and you automatically lower yourself to his eye-level to say hello. But the commotion and distraction of loud noise can easily override that first impression of each other.
The Teller County Regional Animal Shelter in Divide operates the Doggy Day Out program to provide an opportunity for both animal and human to get to know each other in a more natural environment. But it isn’t just for potential adopters. “This program gives people a chance to recognize the quality of the animal inside a home or on a car ride,” says Angie Davis, director of operations. “It gives dogs a new leash on life.”
Anyone can participate in the program to take a shelter dog out for a day to hike, swim at a lake or just hang out at home. The shelter provides participants with a daypack loaded with treats, toys and water, along with a glowing yellow harness and a leash for the dog. The dog’s accessories are lettered with a bold black message “Adopt Me,” to spread the message—and the opportunity—for the dog in public.
On my visit to the Divide shelter, Angie Davis, director of operations, walked me through the row of kenneled dogs, giving descriptions of each one. A 7-year-old German shepherd stood out at the end of the row. Major’s eyes were gold and shining. He perched is paws up on the kennel door and barked once, begging me to choose him. I leashed him up, and he plowed through the kennel area. I was nervous that I chose a big, strong dog that could yank the leash out of my hand at any moment.
But the second we walked out of the kennels, the tugs stopped. I led Major out to the open field behind the shelter, and he steadied his pace to happily trot at my side. We followed a trail that winds through rolling foothills at the base of Pikes Peak, and Major stopped to smell every bush—and occasionally glance up at me for a treat.
I walked Major all afternoon. When we returned to the shelter, he went right back to his kennel, lay down and closed his eyes. I felt bad that I couldn’t give him a home, but I was happy to give him a few hours out in the fresh mountain air.
For someone looking to adopt, this program allows them to see how the dog acts in everyday activities. The adopter and the dog are given a chance to test their relationship instead of taking the risk of things not working out. “People really get to learn about the dog outside of the kennel to see who [the dog] really is,” Davis says. “That is so valuable.”
The program also gives petless humans like me an opportunity to avoid hiking alone and to have a furry, four-legged companion on the trail. It’s also a great chance to explore the many trail systems in Teller County.
About two weeks after my hike with Major, I contacted Davis again to see how he was doing. “Major was adopted by a couple who live in Fairplay and have a lot of land,” she told me. I like to picture a happy Major, running through that land that probably resembles the field we walked through together that day.
Take a Dog for a Day
Where: Teller County Regional Animal Shelter, 308 Weaverville Road, Divide, behind the Teller County Sheriff’s office
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. – Fri., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Sundays
Before You Go: Fill out the release and information forms. Call the shelter at 719-686-7707 to let them know you’re coming, and the staff will have a daypack ready for you.
Adopt a Dog
October is both Adopt a Shelter Pet Month and Adopt-A-Dog Month, implemented respectively by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and American Humane. For local information about pet adoption:
Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region: hsppr.org
Teller County Regional Animal Shelter: tcrascolorado.org/adoptions