On Wednesday morning, there was a princess out on the town in Williamsburg.
Well, not a real one, but Princess the black-and-white terrier-pitbull mix.
Princess spent her morning outside her temporary home, Heritage Humane Society on Waller Mill Road in Williamsburg, accompanying a police officer as she strolled Duke of Gloucester Street.
If taking a trek down DoG Street wasn’t enough, the 2-year-old Princess also made it to the McDonald’s drive-thru to order a plain cheeseburger.
“I fell in love with Princess yesterday and wanted to run away with her,” said Senior Police Officer Aundrea Holiday.
The dog’s day out was the maiden voyage for a new program the Williamsburg Police Department has set up with Heritage Humane Society called “Dog For a Day.”
The program is led by Holiday, the department’s community engagement officer, and aims to increase the chances for local shelter dogs to be adopted.
It also helps Holiday engage residents and visitors that she ordinarily would not.
“This is an opportunity to work with one of our close community partners, Heritage Humane, while affording our officers the chance to facilitate positive interactions with our citizens and visitors,” said Williamsburg Police Chief Sean Dunn. “It is an absolute win-win.”
Another city employee, Bill Brown, who works with public works, approached police with the idea during the holiday season last year.
Dunn forwarded an email detailing the idea to Holiday, who got right to work.
“I reached out immediately” to Heritage Humane Society, Holiday said.
Holiday needed to undergo training with the humane society to prepare for the program. She had about an hour to go over Heritage policies. After that, Holiday received training on getting the dogs in and out of their kennels, and more.
She finished training last month.
“We jumped at the change because the exposure for the dogs is incredible,” said Adam T. Claar, an animal behavior consultant with Heritage.
Holiday said she aims to take a shelter dog out at least once a week, as her schedule allows. Heritage will choose which dogs get to participate.
On the dogs’ day out, Holiday will get them at 8 a.m. and return them by noon — in time for the shelter’s adoption hours.
“Getting out and about and having a field trip is incredibly valuable,” Claar said, adding the shelter works to take its dogs out to Colonial Williamsburg on short trips as often as possible.
“We have dogs that loosen up so much when they’re out,” Claar added.
Making it bigger
Some other Williamsburg officers have already expressed interest in taking a dog out for the program.
The dogs will not go on emergency calls, but they will get to ride along during patrols and community engagement activities.
The success of the first day of the program has greatly encouraged the police department, Holiday said.
“What I did not expect was all the smiles and cheerfulness that our four legged friend, known as Princess, would bring to the police department,” Dunn said. “She is beautiful and so friendly. As you can tell by the photos, our team enjoyed meeting Princess very much. We all have our fingers crossed that someone out there will fall in love with her as we did and give her a forever home.”
Holiday has one worry about the new program: She might fall in love with every dog she takes out.
“I was very serious. I was thinking very hard, ‘Hmm, how can I run away with her?’” Holiday said.