Breast Cancer Awareness
|
|
|
MailTribune.com
  • Sometimes a dog needs a PAL

  • On a sunny afternoon in February, chilly temperatures did little to discourage a chocolate-colored, 2-year-old, pit-lab mix named Lillie from running between 18-year-old fraternal twins Tayler and Danielle Donegan for some needed playtime.
    • email print
  • On a sunny afternoon in February, chilly temperatures did little to discourage a chocolate-colored, 2-year-old, pit-lab mix named Lillie from running between 18-year-old fraternal twins Tayler and Danielle Donegan for some needed playtime.
    While most teens their age run home after school to check Facebook pages or head off to part-time jobs, the Sams Valley sisters spend three afternoons a week working with dogs that need a little, extra help to connect with their forever families.
    Disguised as playtime, bathtime and walks around the neighborhood, PALS (Pets are Loving Souls) is a carefully planned program geared toward reducing shelter anxiety, socializing animals that need some extra "people skills" and improving a homeless dog's chance of being adopted.
    Volunteers are assigned to dogs that might be depressed or skittish or have other drawbacks — too old, too hyper — that could lead to them being passed over for puppies or more mellow breeds for adoption.
    Tayler scratches Lillie's lopsided ears and points out her smile. Pit bulls and pit mixes, she says, don't kennel well. Lillie, who isn't too comfortable with men just yet, loves to play ball and enjoys a nice belly scratch.
    "She used to bark lots more and would cry and bark when left in one of the yards," Tayler says.
    "She's doing much better now," she says. "I've had her the longest. It's time for her to find a home. She's a really good dog, but her first impression isn't the best because she has a thing about meeting people through fences."
    While volunteers in the PALS program start out by helping to socialize dogs that might only need some one-on-one time, longtime volunteers progress to working with higher-needs dogs.
    Hillary Hulen, director of shelter operations, says connections like the one between Lillie and Tayler show how PALS has helped dogs spend shorter amounts of time at the shelter.
    "It warms the hearts of all of the staff at SOHS to see a needy dog struggling with confidence issues emerge with a wagging tail and a happy adoption tale that is a direct result of the efforts of that dog's pal," Hulen says.
    "The program does a great job, and the volunteers get as much out of this program as the dogs."
    Whitney Curdis, a senior at North Medford High School who has worked with a dozen PALS dogs over the past year, agrees. The 17-year-old says she's learned about commitment and hard work from each of the dogs she's helped.
    "You know that you're really helping them, so that's a good feeling," Whitney says. "You get to interact with different kinds of dogs. It's really been a lot of fun.
    "I think of it as almost like a job. Even though we don't get paid, I'm so committed about going in to be there for my dog. They're counting on us, so that's pretty important."
    If there's a downside, Danielle says, who keeps a photo album of the 26 dogs she's been assigned to, it's that being successful means having to say goodbye.
    "It's hard because you get attached," Danielle says. "It's kind of bittersweet when your dogs get adopted because you know you helped them get a new home, but you miss them because you got to know what a good dog they could be.
    "Even though you miss them ... they found a good home because I helped them get there."
    On the Web: http://bit.ly/I6louN
Reader Reaction

      calendar