New program gets shelter dogs into the pool

HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — Mayor Mccheese is making a splash at Alpha Dog Club in the West End.  The lovable white Pit Bull Mix has been waiting for his forever home atRichmond Animal Care and Control for six months, but in the pool he is free.

“He knows when he’s going swimming,” says RACC Director Christie Peters.  “He jumps in the truck by himself, and the exercise and therapy alone has changed his outlook on life.  He’s happier, he’s calmer.”

Mayor Mccheese plays with balls and other toys while he swims in the Alpha Dog Club pool.
Mayor Mccheese plays with balls and other toys while he swims in the Alpha Dog Club pool.

 

This new program is made possible by Alpha Dog Club’s nonprofit, Advanced Canine Education.  It is getting dogs, like three-year-old Labrador Giddy-Up, out of the shelter for a couple of hours each Monday.

Giddy-Up is a three-year-old Labrador Retriever who is strengthening her swimming skills.
Giddy-Up is a three-year-old Labrador Retriever who is strengthening her swimming skills.

Alpha Dog Club President Alan Douglas says seeing the animals flourish in the pool is rewarding.  “For dogs that have been neglected and not have a home, to have that kind of individual attention they have from getting in the pool and have some fun, it just changes their disposition.”

Adds Dog Swimming Instructor Spencer Hawthorne, “It’s really great for them socially, behaviorally, I think emotionally to get out of the shelter and swim and just have that outlet to get energy out and kinda be a dog for a little bit.”

Hawthorne says swimming builds the dogs’ confidence and makes them more adoptable.

Hawthorne guides first-timer Clayton in the water for a few minutes, but in no time the Terrier takes tentative strokes on his own.

Instructor Spencer Hawthorne sits with Clayton on a ramp into the pool until the Terrier builds up enough courage to go in the water.
Instructor Spencer Hawthorne sits with Clayton on a ramp into the pool until the Terrier builds up enough courage to go in the water.

All the dogs go back to the shelter happier and healthier with another skill to make them family-ready.

“No matter how bad a day you’re having, you watch the dogs swim and there is such pure joy in their body, in their expression,” describes Alpha Dog Board Chair Hermine Douglas.  “You can’t have a bad day.”

Advanced Canine Education hopes to keep the RACC program going for as long as it can and expand to give dogs from other area shelters this opportunity.  You can sponsor a dog by following this link.

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