Project Happiness Begins

Our new grassy yard will be fun for pups and people alike.
Our new fenced, grassy play yards will be fun for  pups and people alike.

You’ve heard that it’s coming: Our new animal enrichment program, Project Happiness. We are excited to say that we’re wrapping up the initial phase of the Project- some administrative details and the creation of some terrific new outdoor areas (thanks to a host of fabulous volunteers, see the list below!) – and are now ready to begin the next stage.

A dog awaiting adoption romps in one of the new runs
A dog awaiting adoption romps in one of the new runs

We are asking for volunteers to help us provide enrichment for the animals. To participate, we ask that folks have spent at least 10 hours volunteering with us so that you are familiar with the facility, the animals, and have an idea of how things work.  After that, a short training session is required for the species of your choice (cats, dogs, or both) to participate. At the end of each session, a training for working with the exotics will be offered for those interested. Once a part of the Project, we ask for a commitment of at least one hour per week for three months.

Enrichment is a vital part of an animal’s well being while in a shelter, just as important as food, safety, and medical care. Just like people, stress can wreak havoc on an animal’s health and behavior. Our enrichment program is designed to help relieve stress by giving animals something to do or think about and giving them extra attention. By helping them stay happy, you will be helping them stay healthy and be adopted more quickly.

Cats prepare to tackle a treat puzzle.
Cats prepare to tackle a treat puzzle.

In Project Happiness volunteer trainings, we will discuss basic body language, identifying stressed or fearful animals and how to help them, group and individual enrichment activities (like food/treat puzzles, providing smells to investigate, exercise, etc.), Gentle Leaders for dogs, walking on a harness for cats, basic obedience commands, and more. We will also discuss our system of tracking enrichment activities and each animal’s progress. (Don’t worry- it’s a simple log, not hours of tedious paperwork!) Though many of you may already be familiar with some or all of these topics, it’s important that we are consistent for the animals’ sakes. Mixed messages about what a command means or how to behave in a certain situation can cause more stress rather than relieve it. If you would like to sign up for a training or have any questions, feel free to email volunteer@staffordanimalshelter.org.

For extra help in the creation and construction of Project Happiness Spaces for pets, we are very grateful to: Tom & Claire Lemke, Dennis & Darlene Tilton, Jodi Litchfield Designs, Yvonne Venturino, Alicia Davis, Mike Gomez, David Drake, Brandy Jacobson, Native Landscaping, Irrigation from Hank Fabich of Green Again, JD Prosser fencer and Dunkle Fencing, Murdochs for fencing, Master Gardener Coordinator Tracey Mosley, Aaron Kling and his volunteer group and Heather Bellamy and Matt Fettig of Northwestern Energy. We can be there for the pets because you all are there for us!