Give these dogs a reason to smile

Published 10:15 pm Wednesday, May 1, 2013

When I was in college I volunteered for the SPCA for a very selfish reason: I missed my dogs. I lived three hours away and after spending most of my life with them, it was difficult not to be able to be with them whenever I wanted to be.

So I signed up as a volunteer, desperate for the chance to interact with some furry friends. As a shelter volunteer, I was able to comfort the stray animals that had no idea why they were there. I described them to potential adopters, hoping they would find their forever home.

But the best part of my duty was walking the dogs. I can’t imagine being cooped up in a kennel all day, surrounded by other dogs that are often restless, excited and — more than anything else — loud. So when I got the opportunity to walk the dogs, I leaped at it.

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Giving an animal 10 minutes of sunshine, relative quiet and a chance to stretch its legs is perhaps the most important thing that can be done in the short-term for some of these animals. Getting that exercise will allow many of them to calm down, making them more appealing to potential adopters.

And the reactions some of the dogs had to their walks were the epitome of contentedness. I’ve heard people say that dogs don’t smile, that such a suggestion humanizes them in a way that’s not possible. It’s obvious to me that they’ve never taken a shelter dog — or any dog for that matter — on a walk in the sun after it has been cooped up for too long.

Every one of those dogs I took for walks always came back smiling. I’ve even caught the dog I adopted from that shelter smiling on our walks.

I’m sure volunteers at the Suffolk Humane Society would say the same thing. Perhaps that’s why they made their biggest fundraiser of the year a dog walk.

And while the Suffolk Mutt Strut involves plenty of fun for pets and humans alike — including vendors, demonstrations and food — the most important part of the event is the walk.

The event is set for Sunday, but it’s not too late to show your support. The society is still looking for walkers to register. You don’t have to have a dog to walk; in fact you don’t even have to show up to walk. The society is offering a virtual walk program that allows supporters the opportunity to raise money even if they can’t attend the event.

To register, visit

With your help, the society can give all the stray or abandoned animals in Suffolk a reason to smile.