By Emy Lou

I need a lot of exercise. It’s good for my overall mental health. When I’ve had a nice walk, I can nap on the couch and maybe not even react to what is going on outside. When I’ve been cooped up, my senses become even more acute. I bark before my neighbor even walks by the house. When I’m in the garage with the door shut, I can sense the presence of Rory, a friendly neighborhood pup. I bark and snarl like an Orc from The Lord of the Rings as he passes by. This morning, a bichon frise tried to walk past my house. The dog was completely obscured from my view by a snowbank, but I still let that little fluffball have it with a few choice barks. I did some research on these vicious beasts. While they are described as having a personality “that draws smiles and hugs wherever they go,” I remain suspicious. According to the American Kennel Club, bichons “feel there are no strangers, just friends they haven’t met.” My philosophy is more like, “Don’t tread on me.”  

While I may not be the friendliest dog you have ever met, I can still appreciate a good field trip. Life at the shelter can be tough. We have a beautiful facility in Truckee with a nice play yard and opportunities to take walks around the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe’s campus. But a new program is shaking things up at the shelter. It’s allowing dogs to get off campus for a field trip.

FIELD TRIP: When Poseidon isn’t hanging at Red Truck, he enjoys taking walks around campus. He’s a handsome,
well-behaved gentleman who had Miles asking, “Can we keep him?” Photo by Emy Lou/Special to Moonshine Ink

I spent some time chatting with Poseidon, a 5-year-old, 80-pound pup who has already benefited from this program. Poseidon loves car rides and displayed his gentle, friendly manner while on a field trip to Red Truck. Airplane noises and new people didn’t faze this handsome boy. Another pup got to spend an afternoon keeping someone company in their beautiful home, helping with household chores, and taking it easy. Whether it’s a visit to Starbucks for a puppuccino or a nice hike, these adventures give the dogs a break from shelter life. They make nice dogs like Pegasus, a husky mix, more adoptable.

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According to recent research at Virginia Tech, outings like field trips increased a dog’s likelihood of adoption by five times. Short foster stays increased a dog’s likelihood of adoption by 14 times. Data from 51 animal shelters was analyzed with 1,955 dogs who had a foster or field trip experience. More than 25,000 other pups served as the study’s control group. The study concluded that, “Animal shelters should consider implementing brief outing and temporary fostering programs to improve the welfare of shelter-living dogs.”

HSTT was quick to start its own field trip initiative, which launched in July 2023. Volunteers go through volunteer trainings and learn how to take shelter dogs on a walk around campus. Once this training is completed by someone 18 years or older, the field trips can begin. HSTT contacts potential field trip volunteers when a specific dog needs an outing. Dogs spend less time at the shelter, have less stress, and get adopted faster. 

“The volunteers are enjoying the program almost as much as the dogs,” said Foster and Volunteer Coordinator Nicole Hilton. “They love that they have this new off-campus option. We have even seen some new volunteers, who are excited to take the dogs on an adventure.”

If you would like to become an HSTT volunteer and take some field trips or want to check out some cool dogs, cats, and small mammals, visit hstt.org. 

~ Emy Lou is an unpredictable bundle of energy residing near Prosser Reservoir. A curious blend of three high-energy breeds, she enjoys soccer, barking at small dogs, and groveling to big ones. She’s the kind of girl who likes to growl all day and then crawl under your covers at night.  

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