If you’re heading for a stroll down Duke of Gloucester Street, a jog along a local trail, or even a quick dip at an area beach, perhaps there’s room for a “plus one” to join in the fun? While dogs are up for adoption at the Heritage Humane Society, one of the hidden gems at the shelter is eager to share is that many of its homeless dogs are available to be signed out for a Fido Field Trip.
The Fido Field Trips initiative launched in July 2019 in part with the shelter’s dog whisperer, Adam Claar. The first-ever Fido Field Trip was July 6 that year. A volunteer took an adoptable dog named Zoey to Colonial Williamsburg for a few hours of adventure. That day kicked off the almost 500 Fido Fieldtrips that have since helped dogs like Zoey get a much-needed break from shelter life.
The Fido Field Trips is often tailored to the dog’s personality. Common outings include a car ride on a beautiful day, a hike, a visit to a volunteer’s home, or even a nice stroll. These outings help the dogs with managing kennel stress, burn off energy and get more exposure to the community they are eager to join.
Signing the Field Trip Permission Slip
It’s easy to add a fun twist to a dog-lover’s day with a Fido Field Trip. The volunteer-run program begins with completing the required volunteer training. After that, it’s time for adventure.
While the Heritage Humane Society doesn’t provide an old-school brown bag lunch, it does ask for a quick field trip report. Volunteers who take dogs on a Fido Field Trip are asked to complete “pup report” at the end of their adventure. These reports give the shelter lots of helpful information about the dog that may not otherwise be learned by the staff if the dog is limited to the shelter. The team learns how the dog behaved off-property, what it was like in the car, how it engaged with others and adapted to new surroundings, what their personality is like outside the shelter environment, their interactions with adults, kids, and other animals, and more. Some places such as Home Depot and Tractor Supply even let the dogs come inside to shop with their field trip “chaperone.”
“Fido Field Trips have given us the opportunities to learn so much more about the dogs that we care for in the shelter environment by learning more about their true personalities outside of the shelter,” says Emily Glickman, Medical & Foster Care Dog Lead at the Heritage Humane Society. “While we all do our best to get to know each individual animal in the shelter, Fido Field Trips have immensely helped in gaining knowledge about the dogs in our care and how they are in public settings: with kids, other dogs, and people away from the shelter environment. The dog that barks from his or her kennel as people walk by might actually be the most family friendly dog. This is why Fido Field Trips are so important!”
Meet Fido Field Trip Volunteer Extraordinaire, Janet Zikes
For dog lover Janet Zikes, Fido Field Trips have been a scheduled part of her week since February 2020. She usually takes dogs out at least 2-3 times a week. Her soft spot is working with the dogs that have been at the Heritage Humane Society for long periods of time. Currently she is taking Jerome, Mack, and Orion out regularly. Jerome celebrated his one-year anniversary of being at the shelter and is eager for a forever home.
For Zikes, taking dogs on Fido Field Trips is one of the great experiences of volunteering. There are many benefits including giving the dogs a great mental health break, getting them out of what is often a stressful situation to one where they can experience a little fun, get some affection, and some exercise. For some of the dogs that sometimes have a more difficult time in the shelter environment, the Fido Field Trip is even more beneficial.
“Jerome is one of those dogs that has come a long way after many Fido Field Trips,” shares Janet Zikes, volunteer at the Heritage Humane Society. “When I first started taking Jerome on field trips, he was often reactive to other people and animals. Now after many Fido Field Trips he is not reactive and I often get comments about how handsome and well behaved he is.”
Fido Field Trip dogs wear an orange vest labeled with “Adopt Me.” For Zikes, Mack is another dog that has benefited from Fido Field Trips. He is young and energetic and the excursions give him an outlet for some of that energy. The last time Zikes had him at Colonial Williamsburg, he had a great meeting with one of the people there and he was very affectionate and a great ambassador for Heritage Humane Society.
To learn more and sign up, visit HeritageHumane.org or call 757-221-0150. Heritage Humane Society is located at 430 Waller Mill Road, Williamsburg, VA 23185.
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