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Friday, July 30, 2004


Hike with a hound

Shelter dogs enjoy weekly Adams Gulch Hikiní Buddies walks

Express Staff Writer

Rush hour at Adams Gulch?

Luckily, itís is far from typical traffic.

Instead, itís a typical Wednesday with an eager crowd gathered to take part in the Adams Gulch Hikiní Buddies program.

Tori Schimchick, Marie Blakley and Ally Blakley walk Fritzie as part of the Adams Gulch Hikiní Buddies program. Express photos by David N. Seelig

Each Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Animal Shelter of Wood River Valley brings a collection of dogs to the trailhead for a weekly walk with volunteers.

"Itís like they (the dogs) look forward to it," Leslie Luray, a board member of the shelter, remarked.

Human companions anticipate the walks as well, as indicated by the number of hikers who turn out each week. Some weeks as many as 20 people wait for the dogs to arrive from the Hailey shelter, Luray said.

The shelter welcomes walkers to spend time with the animals for as little or as long as they like. The shelter provides collars and leads for the dogs.

The goal of the hiking program is to provide exercise, fun and stimulation for the animals.

Allie, a shy shelter dog, benefits from the program each week.

"Allie has made tremendous improvement since she has been taken to Adams Gulch," an observer wrote in the dogís file. Participants are encouraged to record their experiences with the animals.

The weekly hikes encourage socialization with humans and several lucky dogs are adopted along the way.

Woody is one lucky canine who found a home.

He enjoyed a hike with a couple from out of town. The couple remarked to Karen Bohlke, a shelter volunteer, that Woody was the nicest dog they had ever walked

With shelter volunteersí encouragement the Bohlke family adopted Woody.

Some adopted dogs stay in the valley, while others have found homes with people visiting from Washington, D.C., Florida and California.

The participants who walk the dogs are often repeat volunteers from out of town, Luray said. These visitors have pets that canít come along vacations. Others are valley residents who attend every week.

Attendance is so great that shelter volunteers bring their own pets as reserve dogs. Hikers can take these pets if all of the shelter dogs are on walks.

Shelter staff consider the Adams Gulch Hikiní Buddies program one of the most progressive shelter activities in the country.

Other shelters that are curious about the program continually contact the Wood River facility. Luray said the shelter fields questions from other agencies as far away as California, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Unfortunately, similar programs are difficult to implement in other places because communities lack the luxury of room to roam.

"The Wood River Valley is so fortunate to have the space," Luray explained.

The vast system of trails is a blessing for homeless dogs in the area, as are the abundance of volunteers.

The shelter welcomes volunteers to walk the dogs, drivers to transport the dogs and others to help check dogs in and out.



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