From the desk of Development Director at Pope Memorial Humane Society Chrys deLorimier,

Playgroups! The word evokes fun images and, for dogs, the concept can literally be a lifesaver. Last year, thanks to a grant from The Animal Farm Foundation, an internationally recognized nonprofit called Dogs Playing for Life came to PMHS to train Staff to run dog playgroups safely and successfully.

Dog playgroups are not just fun and stress relieving for dogs, they are also a rehabilitation tool, helping with a variety of issues. The collective wisdom and strong social bonds of a group of dogs helps draw out shy dogs, curb bossy or overenergetic dogs and can even address more complex issues.

Canine participants are sorted into matched play types and allowed to play together. Those with specific issues are carefully matched with those who can help. Humans are only there as facilitators, ensuring dogs are well matched and things go smoothly. The dogs do the work together. They can be matched with more and more challenging types as they grow and learn.

I recall watching a gentle/dainty type who also happened to be a tall, one-eyed lady named Lillian. Her single eye made her cautious of other dogs, and she would “overcorrect,” when a dog would come to sniff her, she would turn around and snap. Paired with the right dogs, over time she was able to see how much her overreacting hurt her nice companions and she modified her behavior before my eyes.

There was also the case of Cooter, a feral dog who shook and hid in his kennel and was barely eating. It took everything staff had to get him out into playgroup, but once there, he came alive over days and weeks.

At first, he would stand in the corner looking fearful. Then, he started to play with one nice dog. Before long, he was romping with all of the dogs, and even growing closer to the humans, eventually accepting pets from his favorite people. The other dogs healed his fear of humans before our eyes. It felt like a miracle.

If you would like your very own furry friend, Ryker is patiently waiting for his own pickup truck seat. Are trips to the lumberyard feeling lonely? Ryker can fill the void on that bench seat and make sure you have someone to tell about your project (he’s a good listener.)

The shelter is open by appointment. If interested in adopting, please fill out an application (popehumane.org) before calling 594-2200 to set up an appointment.

If you would like to drop off supplies for the animals next time you are out, top needs are paper towels, toilet paper and cleaning wipes. We always need 33-gallon trash bags and wet pet food. Please leave donations at the front door and make out a receipt if you’d like.

Thank you for caring about homeless pets!