“Project Dog (Humane Society of Central Delaware, Delhi, NY)”

Julie Morris, ASPCA Vice President, National Shelter Outreach

PROJECT DOG

On the surface, there is nothing remarkable about the Humane Society of Central Delaware County (HSCDC) in Delhi, NY. It is a small facility with no particular bells or whistles. Why, then, does it seem to have the most appealing dogs? On each visit, I’ve wanted to take several home. It took me a while to figure out HSCDC’s secret – and it’s no secret at all. It’s passion, determination and hard work in the form of Executive Director Lauren Beck.

During her eight years at the HSCDC, Beck has transformed the Society into a high-quality facility that addresses not only an animal’s basic needs but the entire animal – including his/her mental health and well-being. “At the risk of sounding corny,” she says, “the most important thing we do here is love the dogs – and they know it.”

The work that the staff does with dogs is nothing short of amazing. Newly arriving dogs are given a name, if they’re not already named, and then they are given two to three days to just “chill.” Where appropriate, dogs are given roommates – a buddy or pal to share their home away from home. Roommates are constantly monitored for compatibility and periodically switched so staff can observe how they interact with different dogs. Dogs spend part of the day in play groups, which are based on age, sex and general compatibility ” all of which require staff to be well-attuned to individual animals. Beck’s latest innovation is Project Dog. Each staff member has at least one “project dog” with whom he or she works extensively, including leash training, basic obedience and a few tricks. The staff member gets to know the project dog and may even take the dog home at night or for weekends.

Wendell, the project dog of staff member Deb Crute, is a typical example. Under ordinary circumstances, an 8-year-old-plus, brown-and-white hound mix would not be highly adoptable. But as Crute’s project dog, Wendell is learning basic obedience commands and coursing through the agility equipment. Crute is bringing out the best in him, and I have no doubt that Wendell will find the perfect placement (all previous project dogs have). There will be no rest for Crute, however; as soon as Wendell is adopted, she’ll be given another project dog. Beck and her staff keep “Alumni” books of photos, anecdotes and success stories of past adoptees. “Whenever I feel discouraged,” she says, “this book picks me right up.”

Beck is the consummate salesperson. For instance, I dare not divulge who my favorite project dogs are for fear of having one delivered to my home. Just ask my mom. She has accompanied me to the shelter several times, and on one visit, mentioned that if Beck should come across a young border collie, she might be interested. Several months later, she received a call. The ‘perfect” dog had arrived – a young adult border collie/Australian shepherd mix; would she be interested in coming just to look? No one will be surprised by the outcome. Ariel, who is indeed the perfect dog, was adopted immediately (almost immediately, that is; the shelter has a one-day waiting period in order to give impulse adopters the chance to think things through, not to mention that Beck had no intention of placing Ariel until she was spayed).

So while it’s definitely true that the dogs at HSDCD are loved, it’s also true that both the staff and volunteers of HSCDC work literally around the clock to make sure that the dogs in their care thrive during their stay at the shelter.

ASPCA Animal Watch – Fall 1998

© 1998 ASPCA


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