Orphans of the Storm® Dogs Playing for Life

Last week, Orphans of the Storm® was excited to welcome Dogs Playing for Life! Dogs Playing for Life is a program that travels to shelters around the country (and internationally!) to “demonstrate both the practical efficiencies of play groups for the rescue organization, as well as the emotional and behavioral benefits for the animals.”

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Bonus (who has since been adopted!), Leon, and Nando (with Roxy doing her own thing in the background)

Dogs are naturally social animals, but if you’ve visited or seen pictures of most animal shelters, dogs are kept separate in individual kennels. They get to socialize with the human staff, volunteers, and potential adopters, but don’t often get an opportunity to socialize with other dogs. Implementing play groups for shelter dogs has many benefits, including:

  • Dogs get more physical exercise during a play group than during a leashed walk
  • Dogs learn important social and communication skills
  • Staff can do more accurate assessments of individual dogs’ personalities
  • More dogs can get taken out of their kennels in a shorter period of time, meaning there’s a higher chance that every dog gets out every day and some dogs can go out twice in one day
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Nando, Bonus, and Leon

Dogs Playing for Life leads multi-day seminars that include a presentation and several days of hands-on training. At Orphans of the Storm®, more than 40 volunteers attended the presentation and almost all of those attended at least one of the six hands-on sessions. Several members of staff attended as well. We learned about different play styles, how to introduce dogs to the play group, and–most importantly–how to keep both the dogs and people safe.

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Bonus and Roxy

A key part of Dogs Playing for Life is that it really is all about the dog-to-dog interactions. There are usually only 2-4 people inside the yard with the dogs (depending on how many dogs are in the yard at the time) and they are mostly there to keep an eye on things. The people don’t pet the dogs or play with them in any way. They’ll correct a dog’s behavior if the other dogs aren’t correcting it themselves, but it is truly amazing (especially to me, who has only ever owned one dog at a time and has very little experience with multiple dogs in one space) how well the dogs communicate with each other and work things out on their own.

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Ruth ended up being a great “greeter” dog who welcomed new dogs into the yard

During the hands-on training, almost every dog at Orphans of the Storm® got to join a play group at least once. This includes dogs that we all thought didn’t get along with other dogs! Some examples include Barney, Cheyenne (Shyanne), and Tom. Successfully playing in a group is not a guarantee that these dogs can go to a home and spend all day, every day living with another dog–but it is still great to know that they are capable of appropriate dog-to-dog interactions!

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Ruth, Leon, and John Boy (sorry for the blurriness, I got snow on my lens!)

Play groups don’t only benefit the super-energetic dogs. Shy dogs, like Quinn and Ruth, came out of their shells and were playing in the course of just one group outing. Jax the German Shepherd (who I haven’t had a chance to profile yet) arrived at the shelter scared and overcompensated by barking at everything–but in the play groups, he’s a happy and playful pooch. When you just let dogs be dogs, incredible things can happen!

Orphans of the Storm® would like to thank the ASPCA and the Petco Foundation for bringing the Dogs Playing for Life program to us.

Orphans of the Storm® Dogs on a Snowy Afternoon

The snow started falling about halfway through my afternoon at Orphans of the Storm®, but the dogs certainly didn’t mind!

Turbo the four-year-old Hound mix is an energetic guy, hence his name. He loved romping around the off-leash run, following his nose behind the bushes, and exploring. Turbo would come running back to me every once in a while to quickly check in, and then be off doing his own thing again. Turbo can be a little bark-y around certain dogs but doesn’t pay as much attention to others.

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Turbo hitting the trail

Turbo likes to walk at a quick pace when he’s on the leash, but is happy to take the occasional break to nicely stand by your side and get pet. He particularly enjoys getting his chin scratched. Turbo is missing a couple toes on one of his back paws, but that certainly doesn’t slow him down. Come in soon to meet Turbo!

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Turbo says, “Yup, that’s the spot.”

Bonus the one-year-old Australian Cattle Dog mix has the best doggy smile I have ever seen. It’s impossible not to smile back at him. He always looks so content! Bonus is an easy-going companion. He is a great leash-walking buddy who doesn’t pull at all. He pauses to sniff every once in a while, but mostly just walks by your side.

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Bonus looks like he’s part-raccoon with his striped tail

Bonus is also affectionate. He joined me on the bench a few times and gave me some very gentle doggy kisses. Bonus loves getting pet and that’s when he really starts to smile, and even closes his eyes as if to say, “Ahh, so relaxing.” He did a little exploring around the off-leash run but mostly wants to be close to his person. Bringing Bonus home would be a big bonus for any home!

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Have you ever seen a more satisfied dog than Bonus?

Ruth the three-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier mix is new to the shelter and very shy and nervous. As of now, she doesn’t like when strangers walk right up and try to pet her without her getting a chance to get acclimated first. But once she feels comfortable with you, Ruth completely melts into the best lapdog and a great walking companion.

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Ruth is the cutest little baby

Ruth rubbed her side against my legs whenever I knelt down next to her. About halfway around the woodland preserve trail, I sat on the ground and she climbed into my lap and rolled over for a belly rub. When I sat down on a bench, Ruth put her front paws up next to me so I could keep petting her. Ruth is hoping to go to a patient home that will give her plenty of love and confidence so she can fully come out of her shell. Be sure to say hello to Ruth on your next visit to the shelter!

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Ruth just wants to be loved

JoJo the two-year-old Mountain Cur mix looks like a permanent puppy, and has a fun-loving personality to go with her looks. She had a great time running freely around the Enrichment Park and raced another dog along the fence. JoJo watched when I threw a toy, but wasn’t interested in chasing after it or returning it at that particular moment. Perhaps she prefers stuffed animals to rubber bones!

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JoJo with a snowy chin

JoJo happily hopped up on the bench next to me and gave me some doggy kisses. She loved playing in the falling snow and did some fun spins when we were out on the woodland preserve trail. JoJo gets along with children, so she could go home with a family. She is also already housebroken. Come in soon to see if JoJo is the one for you!

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JoJo is a pretty girl

I also saw Apollo, Barney, Dusty (who gave me enthusiastic doggy hugs), Gia (Pippa), James, Reyah, and Sasha.

Orphans of the Storm® Dogs Can Be Your Furry Valentine

Orphans of the Storm® is having a “My Furry Valentine Adoption Event” from February 9-11! The adoption fee will be waived for all dogs and cats 6 months and older. The waived fee includes spay or neuter, the first round of vaccinations, worming, flea and tick treatments, two weeks of aftercare, and a Valentine goody bag with a leash, collar, and special treats. (Please note that additional vet costs may still apply.) So if you’re looking for love this Valentine’s Day, come in to Orphans of the Storm® to find the furry kind!

Pony Boy the one-year-old Labrador Retriever mix has that signature puppy exuberance. His tail is constantly wagging and he gets excited about everything. Pony Boy greeted me with a doggy hug and then we quickly made our way to the Enrichment Park. He likes to chase after toys, but needs a little more practice when it comes to bringing them back. He has a good nose and was pawing through the snow to find frozen treats.

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Pony Boy will make you laugh with his funny faces

Pony Boy can pull a bit on the leash at first, but about halfway around the woodland preserve he settled into a nice walking pace. He likes getting pet and has the cutest wrinkled forehead. He was previously sharing his kennel with another dog, so he could go to a home with or without a furry friend. If you’re looking for a big puppy to call your own, come in soon to meet Pony Boy!

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Pony Boy doing his racehorse (racepony?) impression

Nando the two-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier mix came from an owner who could no longer afford to keep him. That means he already has experience living in a home and is ready to find a more permanent family! Nando has only been at the shelter for a short time, but multiple volunteers are already gushing over how sweet he is.

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Nando caught in the act of being cute

Nando likes to lead the way on walks, but doesn’t pull much. He will stay by your side as long as you’re petting him, but is ready to start moving again as soon as you stop. He had a good time exploring the Enrichment Park and liked running through the snow. He politely sniffed a couple dogs through the fence but didn’t pay them much attention otherwise. Stop in soon to see if Nando is the one for you!

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Nando didn’t mind wading into the deeper snow

Evelyn the one-year-old Shepherd mix is calm inside her kennel, but absolutely loves to run and play when given the space and opportunity. Most of my pictures of her are just a black blur because she was speeding all around the Enrichment Park. Evelyn likes other dogs and spent most of her time in the park racing Tom on the other side of the fence–and she always won!

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Evelyn says, “Oh hi!”

Evelyn wanted to continue running on our way around the woodland preserve trail (though as I’ve mentioned before, it seems like the majority of dogs prefer running through snow but walk at a slower pace when the ground is clear). Evelyn didn’t mind pausing every once in a while, though, to get a pat on the back or a scratch behind her ears. Be sure to say hello to Evelyn on your next visit to the shelter!

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Evelyn with some snow on her nose

Peepers the two-year-old Labrador Retriever mix has lots of energy and is hoping to go to a home where he can get plenty of exercise, whether it be running in a big yard or going on lots of walks (or ideally a combination of both!). Peepers had a fun time exploring the Enrichment Park. Whenever I knelt down to his level, he would come bounding over. This sometimes led to a crash if the snow was too slippery for him to stop in time.

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Peepers with a wagging tail

Peepers is very affectionate. He put his front paws in my lap and covered my face with doggy kisses. He likes getting pet and will wiggle around to make sure you pet his favorite spots. He’s attentive and alert, and liked keeping an eye on things through the fence. Peepers seems to prefer to walk quickly, but he can also match your pace if you move slower. Come in soon to say hello to Peepers!

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Peepers using his peepers to keep an eye on the parking lot

Lolabell the five-year-old Bluetick Coonhound mix is very friendly and outgoing. She likes to be where the action is, so she would probably prefer to have company if she’s out in your backyard rather than being alone. Lolabell likes to give doggy hugs. While she enjoyed sniffing around the Enrichment Park, she would come back to me every couple of minutes to check in and get pet.

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Lolabell not so sure about this whole “ice” thing

Lolabell gets along with other dogs and is currently sharing her kennel with Maebe (see below). She politely sniffed the dogs on the other side of the fence and wanted to stay by them rather than going for a walk. Lolabell can sometimes pull on the leash but overall was a nice walking buddy. Be sure to say hello to Lolabell on your next visit!

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Lolabell coming over to cuddle

Maebe the two-year-old Bluetick Coonhound mix is a little shy at first. Once she gets to know you, though, she loves getting her ears and neck scratched and will stay by your side as long as you keep petting her. She might even give you a doggy hug or two! Maebe, being a Hound, spent most of her time following her nose around the Enrichment Park and uncovered a couple frozen treats that had been lost in the snow.

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Maebe is a sweetie-pie

Maebe gets along with other dogs and is currently sharing her kennel with Lolabell (see above). Maebe likes to move slowly when she’s walking on the leash because she wants to make sure she picks up as many scents as she can. She has those soulful Hound eyes that just make you want to give her a reassuring hug. Stop in soon to meet Maebe!

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Maebe doing what Hounds do best

I also saw Barney, Cass, Huckleberry (who is currently taking off-site obedience classes once a week), Sasha, and Tyson.

Orphans of the Storm® Cats Will Keep You Cozy

The last couple of weeks haven’t been great weather for dog walking, so that gave me a chance to spend some time with the cats at Orphans of the Storm®! This was my first time in the FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) room, and the FIV+ cats are some of the most affectionate I’ve met. All they wanted to do was cuddle!

There are some common misconceptions and misunderstandings with FIV. I heard more than one visitor say that FIV+ cats don’t live long and have a lot of problems. Sometimes people think that an FIV+ cat has to be the only pet in the home.

FIV+ cats have weakened immune systems and can therefore be more susceptible to illnesses, but an indoor FIV+ cat who gets regular checkups and treated for any secondary illnesses can live just as long and happily as an FIV- cat. FIV cannot be transmitted to humans or dogs. It is most commonly transmitted between cats by deep bite wounds.

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Enjoying their elaborate cat tree

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The cats have lots of blankets to keep them warm in this winter weather

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This little cutie stayed in my lap almost the entire time

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Pretty kitty

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This one says, “That’s the spot!”

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One black cat, two black cat…

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There is always room for another cat in your lap

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Willow (if I’m remembering her name correctly) is a volunteer favorite

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Another happy addition to my lap

There is plenty more for potential adopters to learn about FIV before bringing an FIV+ cat home. But just know that there are plenty of lovable, snuggle-able FIV+ cats eager to meet you at Orphans of the Storm®!