TUCSON, Ariz. — Imagine you just met someone and then decided at that moment to go on a road trip together. Would that count as an adventure?
So, if meeting a new friend and having a fun experience sounds like something you want to do, your destination is the Humane Society. Yes, the Humane Society. Every morning volunteers go to the shelter to walk a dog who is here waiting and hoping to find its forever family. First, volunteers choose a dog from the whiteboard and then decide their activity. It's all fun and games with an endgame.
"Sometimes dogs come in with emotional baggage," says Stephen Szostek, the Canine and Enrichment Lead at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.
Szostek is the dog whisperer at the Humane Society. He's in charge of serious fun. He trains them, socializes them, and helps them feel better about where they are living temporarily.
But the goal of this program is not just to de-stress dogs, help them with their behaviors or help them sleep better but ultimately find a home, forever.
"We have to do a lot of this training," says Szostek.
Now here's where the volunteer program becomes an experience. You can choose your own adventure.
First, they have the FAST program. Volunteers can take a dog outside the shelter for the day. Whether it is the dog park, a hike, or a restaurant patio, you find a dog that matches your experience and you hit the road.
The next program is the Jog-A-Dog program. Organizations and companies can take dogs out in a group together. It's one of their most popular programs. People who have done it once keep coming back for more. It's easy, it's adorable but most important is it's it life-saving. Many of the volunteers fall in love with their pup companion after their day and it ends with an adoption.
Szostek says the programs have been vital for the future for these dogs.
"It can't be done without volunteers," Szostek says. "It can't be measured."
For more information, visit hssaz.org/help/volunteer.