Posts Tagged ‘puppies’

I’m Official! Dog Walking Training at BARCS Parts I and II

Posted in Uncategorized on August 27th, 2009 by katie – 2 Comments

This week I completed the two 2-hour dog walking training at BARCS. On Monday I went in for part I, which consisted mostly of basic orientation and introduction to dog walking, and then on Thursday we did part II which was entirely devoted to practicing with the dogs.

I had the opportunity to work one-on-one with Les, who is one of the most enthusiastic, friendliest, and compassionate people I think I’ve ever met. He was thrilled to be my instructor, and he took care to answer all of my questions and make sure I was comfortable with what I was doing. On Monday we spent some time in the conference room going over basic procedures and he asked me some questions about myself in order to get to know me better. Some of the things we went over were basic operating procedures for dog walkers, how to report any behavioral or health issues we notice with a dog, how to avoid getting bitten, and how to avoid dog fights. He said that in recent years there have been three instances where volunteers have been bitten: one was when a dog as cowering in the back of the cage, clearly frightened, but the volunteer went in anyway and tried to put the collar on and the dog snapped at him. Another was after a dog walker returned a dog to its kennel, gave the dog a treat, and then reached for the collar to remove it and the dog was food aggressive and snapped at her hand. The third case occurred out in the dog runs, when one volunteer was already out with a dog and then another volunteer came out and went into the dog run next to the first one, and the dogs started fighting through the fence. One dog started digging under the chain-link fence, so the walker went to try and pull him back and was bitten pretty severely. So, I think my lesson there is to a) observe and respect the dogs’ body language; if they’re telling me they don’t want me there, then I won’t go there! b) to avoid food-aggression issues from the start and c) carefully follow their instructions on avoiding dog-dog confrontations. If there is another dog in our path, we are instructed to turn around and go back until they pass. If there is another dog out in the dog runs, Les says that we should allow the dogs to interact through the fence before letting them off the leash so that we can determine whether it’s a good idea to let them off the leash or not. The most important thing is to prevent any dog from getting loose!

BARCS has three main kennel rooms or suites, each with 22 kennels inside. There are also a few smaller rooms for puppies and nursing mothers but we didn’t go in there because they are currently being renovated. (The renovation meant that there were stacks of kitty condos lining the hallways, and cages of adorable puppies in the halls – so cute!) Out in the hall near the dog walking door to the outside, there is a dry-erase board with a line for all 66 kennels and the name of the dogs in each one. Beside the dogs’ kennel # and name is the date of their last walk, and beside that there may be an L for “leash walk only”, an E for “high energy”, an X for “caution do not walk”,  an H for “house trained” or other symbols for dogs that have recently had surgery or have other special needs. Les said that an L for leash-walk only is usually because the dog has not had all its vaccinations yet, so it should not go into the exercise runs, or it is currently on medications, or the dog has recently had surgery and needs to take it easy. Apparently they used to not walk the dogs that haven’t been fully vaccinated yet, but those dogs ended up waiting way too long because they are just so backlogged, so now those dogs can go out; they just need to be on the leash only.

Both days I was there it seemed like most of the dogs had been walked the day before or two days ago at most, but hardly any had had a chance to go out yet that day. Les said that he usually starts with the dogs that have an H for house trained, because they’re probably holding it pretty bad, and then he goes on to the dogs that have not been out in the longest time.

For me, the trickiest thing is preventing the dogs from bolting out of their kennels as soon as I open the door to go in. Today we took out one dog, named Bear, who was very energetic and started biting on the leash as soon as we tried to get it on him. Once we got the dogs out the door, we either took them for a walk up and down the street or around the parking lot, or we went into one of the dog runs to play. After each play session, dirty toys and balls have to put into a plastic bag and placed in a special bin to be cleaned between uses. Also in between dogs, we the walkers have to sanitize our hands. Both Monday and today, just about every dog we took out went #2 while we were outside, which I took as a pretty good sign.

So here’s the basic routine:

Upon arrival, volunteers sign in, pick up a key to the side door of the shelter, pick up a name tag, and select from a collection of leashes and chains. I find that most of the chains are fairly short, but Les brings his own nice long one which I much preferred, so I got to use his. Some of the dogs have Martingale collars assigned to them hanging on the door of their kennel, but they seem sort of difficult to get on a lot of the time so I’m not sure how often I’ll use them. We pack up our pockets with treats and plastic bags, and a collection tube for poop or diarrhea in case we encounter a medical problem that the vets need to tend to. Then we go to the board and see who needs to be walked.

On Monday I had the chance to walk two dogs. One was a pit-bull mix named Reiki who was very friendly and well behaved. He had a number of red sores along his back and right flank, so we reported that on the vet’s sheet. I wonder if he had been in a fight? He wasn’t there today, so I don’t know what happened to him. There’s a chance that the Maryland SPCA, who comes by several times a week, may have scooped him up because he was so well behaved (apparently they get to pick out the good ones they want to take!)

The other dog we walked on Monday was a cute shepherd mix that had already been approved for adoption. He was very sweet. Today I walked about five dogs. The first was “Bear” who was very enthusiastic about biting the leash but turned out to be a sweet dog. Here is a screen shot of his profile from the BARCS website:

After that, we walked a 5 year old Boxer named Sandy that had been surrendered from an abuse case, and was very thin and looked much older than 5 years to me, but she was very very sweet. Then we walked a very cute little mix named Hot Lips. Hot Lips has already been approved for adoption but she hadn’t been out for two days. She was super cute and had a black body with a white face and white feet and a white tip at the end of her tail. Unfortunately she has kennel cough, but she is on medication for it but we could not take her into the dog run. Next came Twinkle who had already been walked today but Les wanted me to meet her. She was a doll! Here is her profile:

At the end Les suggested I pick the last one and I came across an absolute sweetheart, brindle coated honey that was just completely emaciated. I have never seen a dog that thin before, and neither had Les – he said this was by far the worst case he’d ever seen, and he does this three times a week for I don’t know how long. This dog turned out to be the biggest sweetheart! We went over to a picnic table near the water and he just moved right into my lab for some lovin’. This poor dog’s lower back is barely more than three inches across and you can see every rib and all of his pelvis sticking out, but he was one of the biggest snugglers I’ve ever met, and that’s saying something. I didn’t see how much he weighs but it’s probably well over 40 lbs LESS than he should weigh. He is on a puppy food diet which is high in calories so hopefully he will gain weight fast. He came in as a stray, and I can’t imagine how long he was out on the street starving like that. But what a honey; that was really the best moment of the whole experience was the pure joy and relief that I could feel in him as he snuggles up into my arms and licked the bottom of my chin. Yes, I let him sit in my lap even though he’s way too big; I thought he totally deserved it.

Now that I’ve passed the dog walking course, I can go whenever I want to help walk dogs. Next I’ll try to get into one of the cat socialization classes, and then it will be time for escort training.

BARCS Volunteer Orientation

Posted in Uncategorized on August 17th, 2009 by katie – Be the first to comment

The initial BARCS volunteer orientation was Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 3:00pm. There were a total of eight of us, plus the volunteer and events coordinator. He was quite distracted and frazzled because they were getting ready to take a group of animals to an event at 4:00. I quickly realized just how understaffed they really are.

He first gave us some background on BARCS and described the many opportunities for volunteers. He emphasized a lot of the changes that have been made since BARCS took over from the city shelter in 2005. For example,since then, their adoption rate has increased over 2,000%, but they still have a long way to go to catch up to places like the Maryland SPCA and HSBC, who have a lot more resources and are able to offer things like dog training classes for all adopted dogs. BARCS is working hard to get visibility, and he said that they often do three promotional events per week, all staffed completely by volunteers.

He also said that they take in all animals, not just dogs and cats. Apparently at one point there were several alligators brought in!

The main thing they need volunteers for is escorting. Since BARCS is the intake shelter for cruelty, neglect, and bite cases for Baltimore City, they can’t have people wandering around unattended, so all shelter visitors have to have an escort take them back when they come to look at animals. This means that BARCS is in urgent need of people to escort visitors, especially during busy times. In addition to escorting, they also need people to walk and train dogs and to do cat socialization. The dogs and cats that we will be interacting with will have all gone through intake vaccinations and behavior assessments. In order to do these things, we have to complete special volunteer training courses in addition to the basic volunteer orientation. I have signed up to do the dog walking training next week, which is in two parts. Once that is done I can take the escort class and be ready to go! They are also offering training in dog training, special events, and pet photography and petfinder listings, so I will hopefully be able to attend those as well soon.

As part of the volunteer orientation, we went on a quick tour of the shelter. As expected, it was about 90% pit bulls in the dog kennels. One thing our guide mentioned is that if you see a dog sitting at the front of its kennel, give it a treat so that it learns that’s a good behavior, and is more likely to get adopted. Cute, but also sad at the same time. We saw the “Rainbow Room,” which is where they do euthanasia. We saw a chart in the hallway that lists every dog, and has a check mark next to their name indicating that they’ve been walked that day. A few dogs had X’s next to their names, because they are not to be walked due to aggression or other issues. I was pleased to see that every dog without an X had been walked, and that was probably a result, the volunteer coordinator told us, of a certain volunteer who always makes sure every dog gets to go outside that is allowed.

Just in the halls we passed a 120 lb Rottweiler being processed for intake, several mama dogs with teeny tiny puppies, and a littler of orphaned kittens that needed to be bottle-fed. He told us that they process as many as 50 new animals a DAY. We met one of the animal control officers and saw the animal control vans in a garage with stacks of 100+ plastic and metal carrying crates. One of the most overwhelming things I saw was a room full of mama cats. Each cage held a mama cat and her litter of 6-8 kittens. I’ve never seen kittens that small – they were the size of hamsters! It dawned on me that there were about 10 cages in that room, and not only do each of those mama cats need a home, but so do all of her kittens. There were probably a total of 200 total cats there that day. It’s was a lot to take in…

Hopefully as an escort I can help move more people through the shelter and get more animals out the door alive. I think that BARCS is making great strides, and I know that they will continue to grow and achieve great things. I’m looking forward to being a part of it, no matter how tough it might be.