All of the dogs here on East Dixie Highway are terriers and, accordingly, love dirt. This is to be expected and for me, if not my husband, is part of their charm. Remember, I’m a frat boy at heart and my tolerance for filth is much higher than it is for normal people. And drool! I love a slobbery, drooling dog.
As well, one of the two programs that I manage at work is the shelter animal enrichment program. In this role, I spend much of my day trying to provide institutionalized dogs and cats small creature comforts. Everyday, I am surrounded by homeless dogs and cats who have limited opportunities to engage in normal, species-specific behaviors. Our program includes food puzzles and scavenger activities, sound stimulation, scent enrichment, group housing whenever possible, play groups, puppy socialization, exercise sessions, daily toy rotation and basic skills training. Since the shelter I work at does not euthanize for time, space or treatable medical conditions, the animals live with us until they have been adopted- whether this takes two weeks or two years. In this context, a robust enrichment program is especially critical for the physical, psychological and emotional health of the animals in our care. We do our best, I assure you, and though there is always room for improvement, I’m quite proud of the work we do in this area.
Though such programs should be mandatory, and shelter guidelines published by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians and most national animal welfare organizations are quite emphatic in their support of robust enrichment programs, the reality is that most shelters have not implemented them. They are overcapacity, understaffed, underfunded and simply do not have the financial and human resources to develop and implement them. I do not judge them, for they too are doing the best that they can. So, as much as I sometimes moan about my program’s lack of resources, I know it’s all relative. I’m fortunate to work for an organization that can and does invest in its animals in this way, and I know it.
So, back to the mud…
These dingoes are terriers. They like dirt and mud, and sticks and rocks, and running faster than the wind under, through and over hedges. And I simply do not care. It is natural for them and it makes them happy. When you spent countless hours every week surrounded by homeless animals, some fearful, some stressed, some going crazy from boredom despite your best efforts, I promise you that a little dirt on your dog will become a cause for celebration.
So, yes, I made a little joke with this photograph of Edison, but you know what? I didn’t scold him, I cheered him on.