Off Leash: An Exercise in Empathy
To increase donations and adoptions at her local shelter, a volunteer lived the doggy life for a month
As a dedicated volunteer for the Marion-Grant County Humane Society in Marion, Indiana, Cheryl Walker already knew the inner workings of the shelter pretty well. A board member for two years, she’d cleaned the aging facility, worked in the office, and provided foster care.
But in September, Walker had an idea that would make her a real insider—in a way few shelter volunteers or even staff ever plan to be.
“It all seemed very, very hopeless one day when I was out there. Our building is just falling apart, and we’re nonprofit, and I couldn’t seem to get anybody to listen to me,” she says. “And I went home and I was just really upset and went to bed and curled up in a ball and said to myself, ‘You think it’s bad for you, you ought to be one of the dogs.’ ”
And Walker decided to do just that. After getting support from her family, she suggested her idea to the shelter’s board: She would go canine.