(This article first appeared in the November 1, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)
Want a workout that makes you feel as good as you look? Walking a shelter dog at the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation has all the endorphin-releasing qualities you need to get your heart pumping. Located right inside Red Creek Park in Hampton Bays, the shelter provides an ideal opportunity to volunteer and get those paws moving. The trees are turning, the humidity disappeared, and the brisk cold is settled in before the snow takes over — what better time of year to skip the gym and get outside?
The wooden trail runs about a mile but can be cut into shorter paths, with workout stations along the way — high parallel bars, box jumps, inclined sit-ups, and more. Rather than a treadmill or gym, the variations in terrain challenge your body in a way that a flat surface can’t (therefore burning more calories, which is what we all want, right?).
“It’s a great way for you to exercise and it gets a dog out of their kennel. Our trainers can help find you the perfect walking or running buddy,” adoptions director Kate McEntee explained.
“Our volunteers are amazing. Our dogs get out on walks more often because of their devotion and love. A couple of our volunteers like Carol and Margaret visit us almost every day helping our staff during walks, taking dogs out for extra walks, socializing, or just snuggling.”
Walking a shelter pet can require as much, or as little, commitment as you’d like. However, once a routine begins you’ll find it harder to back out of your workout plans with your new pal than you would if you were keeping things solo. They call them “puppy eyes” for a reason.
In addition, as a volunteer you’ll learn how to hold a leash the proper way so that dogs don’t pull and create a stiffened arm. Tip: put the leash on your thumb and wrap your grip around. It’ll also benefit your pooch with their own leash skills, aiding in their adoption process.
Outside air has the ability to not only keep you thinking sharper, but create a sense of euphoria and optimism. At SASF the dogs get approximately 2.5 hours of leash time in addition to daily yard time and social hours. Choose from any number of dogs ranging in size, age, and personality.
“Dogs are amazing. They give you unconditional love whether it raining, snowing, or sunshiny, and will follow your feet and your beat no matter where you go,” said Deborah Whitney, director of training and behavior.
“Watching the dogs flourish, achieve, and enjoy what they do, along with grow happier and healthier to fulfill their fullest potential is so rewarding.”
If you’re more of a cat person, join in on the enrichment program and playgroups at SASF. Mornings call for Cat Time, where all the felines are released from the “Catios” and can roam free in the building. At the end of it all, play “catch the cat” for an exhausting workout.
Join the team today by attending a volunteer orientation. You can sign up online at http://www.southamptonanimalshelter.com. Just bring yourself and wear sneakers. Leashes, poop bags, volunteer t-shirts, and even a radio are provided.
Being right off Sunrise Highway, you can drop in on your way to or from work or any location upisland, for however long you choose. The best part? You’re taking time out of the day to give one of these animals a second chance. Adopt, don’t shop — or come find your next workout pal.