In shelters, mental health is as important as physical

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At 13, my Pit Bull, Champ, is a bona fide senior citizen. But back when he was a puppy — a life stage that lasted until he was about 8 — he was overflowing with energy and really needed at least one good daily spazz-out to tolerate apartment living.

And even after his physical energy had been sapped, he needed something to occupy his brain. We learned quickly that this could be methodically removing the stuffing from every sofa cushion … or working on a challenge toy, a far preferable pursuit. So we started giving him food puzzles and, his favorite, KONGs stuffed with kibble that we’d soaked in water until mushy, packed into the hollow toy and then frozen.

Wonka enjoys his KONG.

The need for mental stimulation is even more profound for shelter dogs. That’s why one of my favorite Petfinder Foundation grant programs is our partnership with KONG. Having one of these durable toys in his kennel can make an enormous difference in a shelter dog’s quality of life. Wonka, an adoptable dog at Escondido Humane Society in Escondido, CA, is a case in point.

We got this grant report from Katie Woolsey, the shelter’s public relations coordinator: “Thank you so much for your generous grant donation of KONGs for our dogs. We use them in our enrichment program to keep the dogs mentally stimulated and calm while they are in their kennels. I took several photos of adoptable dog Wonka, who just so happens to be a BIG fan of KONGs!

“Wonka is a 7-year-old male pit bull mix who came into the Escondido Humane Society as a stray on Christmas Day 2011. He has been patiently waiting for his new family to find him since then, and he has benefited greatly from the KONGs and the enrichment program. On his behalf – and on the behalf of all the dogs in our care – thank you!”

Want to learn more about Wonka? Meet him here.

Your donations help us provide more life-changing support for pets in shelters across the country.

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