Hikes for Hope gives shelter dogs—and you—some nature time
That happy/sad “walk-me-walk-me-please-please-please” face. Dog owners know this face. But shelter dogs love the outdoors and a nice long walk just as much as those with a forever home. And there’s a way you can help.
I first heard about programs allowing volunteers to take dogs off-site through a shared Huffington Post article on Facebook. Titled “We Borrowed a Shelter Dog to Go Hiking. You Can—And Totally Should—Too,” it details the author’s experience of taking a shelter dog hiking in the greater D.C. area. I wanted to know if I could do something similar here in Chattanooga.
So, I called East Ridge Animal Shelter. I wanted to work with them particularly because they are the only no-kill shelter in Chattanooga. The program they offer is called Hikes for Hope.
Kelsey Cagle, volunteer coordinator at the shelter, has this to say about the program: “My goal for Hikes for Hope is to get our shelter dogs out and about and to let them enjoy life like a dog should. Some of our dogs are here for over six months, and I want them to always know what they have to look forward to when their perfect person comes.”
In order to participate, all you have to do is fill out two forms to become a volunteer. They ask for basic information like your name, birthday, address, email, phone number, availability, and animal preference. There is also a waiver to sign that basically says you won’t hold the shelter responsible if anything happens to you or your belongings while volunteering. I completely understand; animals are wonderfully messy creatures. Be sure to bring your driver’s license since they will want a copy of that, too.
On April 26, we walked Harlow, a female plot hound mix. By we, I mean my boyfriend, Evan, and our dog, Ellie. We chose Raccoon Mountain, one of my favorite hiking spots in the area. It was a perfect afternoon in the low seventies with plenty of cloud coverage—something I, and likely most dogs, appreciate on a hike.
Harlow bounced around the car for most of the ride when she wasn’t attempting to shower me with kisses. We parked at the Switchyard Overlook and took a connector trail to the Grindstone Ridge trail, then walked toward the visitor’s center. Harlow was extremely excited to be out in the woods. She walked me more than I walked her in the beginning!
We hiked a little over three miles. At the end, Harlow was a completely different dog. She actually napped on the ride home. To me, that’s enough proof about how much a little time and affection benefits these shelter animals.
My dog had a blast as well. But this is also a great opportunity for people who aren’t in a position to own a dog, yet crave their companionship. You won’t be able to resist that face. For more information, call the East Ridge Animal Shelter at (423) 664-0271.
• • • •
Editor’s note: Both McKamey Animal Center and the Humane Educational Society also need volunteers to walk dogs. Contact McKamey at (423) 305-6500, and HES at (423) 624-5302, ext. 228.