By Judy Shafer

We did it.

Jenifer Alcorn, another new South Coast Humane Society (SCHS) board of directors member, started an initiative that allowed compatible dogs to interact and play together.

On any given day the dogs can be seen running around — sometimes up to eight dogs at a time. Initially, I thought this would be a great way for the dogs to burn off some energy. But what I saw changed my opinion of these play groups. These groups of dogs were actually providing therapy and rehabilitation for themselves.

We were surprised to see dogs that were brought to us with warnings that they didn’t get along with other dogs ended up playing nicely together. Even dogs that I thought might have a hard time being adopted due to the emotional and/or physical trauma in their pasts were now romping about the shelter’s backyard.

One dog in particular, a German Shepherd mix, was so very fearful of humans that he always cowered at the back of his kennel even when I offered him tasty treats. I once feared this dog would never be adoptable or he would need months of rehabilitation work. Later, I watched this same dog in a SCHS video located on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/282652615085425/ videos/2002244143126 255. The dog that I thought might be permanently emotionally damaged was running around happy. This dog is now adopted, proof that these dog therapy groups can work.

This experience reawakened my understanding that yes, humans are essential for a dog’s well-being and happiness, but so are other dogs. Meaningful interactions with other, carefully selected dogs, might just succeed in a dog’s rehabilitation where we humans alone might not. Deprivation of dog-to-dog contact may be just as debilitating as when humans are deprived of contact with other people.

As a result of this initiative the dogs under our care have more energy and their lives are so much more exciting. We ask the community to help us keep our dogs well fed and happy by donating unopened dog food — preferable kibble. The dogs would also love dog treats which are always in short supply.

Our cats, not to be out done by their canine buddies, would also love more kibble and cat treats.

By the way, have you thought to include your pets in your will to provide for their future care? You can also share your love of animals by including the SCHS in your estate planning. Such bequests help us provide for the many homeless pets in our care. Give these pets a second chance for a forever home by helping us fund our shelter operations.

Your donations, both in food or money, are tax deductible. The SCHS is open noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. Please come on down, bring some food and treats and allow our dogs and cats to put a smile on your face.

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Judy Shafer is a board member of the South Coast Humane Society.

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