By Katy Jones
Adoption Partner Transfer Coordinator
Acting Supervisor of Behavior & Training Division
Nope, it doesn’t involve food or cooking.
On Tuesdays, we Test Kitchen! Every Tuesday, members of our behavior & training staff partner with our Fetch volunteers to offer socialization opportunities to available dogs and unavailable dogs. Working with unavailable dogs in a playgroup capacity is an exciting new step for everyone—it allows us to use other dogs and play to build confidence and skills in dogs that would otherwise not be receiving this type of engagement.
One of our greatest beneficiaries of Test Kitchen Tuesday (TKT) is a young dog named Tristan. Tristan is a hearing-impaired, adolescent Aussie mix who came to SFACC in early February as a stray. When Tristan arrived, he was incredibly shut down and presented as almost feral—he could not be touched, wouldn’t leave his kennel, and spent the majority of his days hiding under his Kuranda bed or pressed against the far back wall of his kennel. Tristan’s quality of life was very poor in this state.
Over the course of a few weeks, Fetch and B&T made great efforts to work with Tristan at his own, glacial pace. Upon noticing him coming to the front of the kennel when other dogs walk by, I opted to sit in front of Tristan’s kennel with dogs known to be social with other dogs and people. And wouldn’t you know it—Tristan began to come out of his shell.
Tristan was able to make friends with another SFACC dog resident, husky mix Winterkin. With regular play sessions, and tandem walks throughout the shelter, Winterkin was able to help Tristan relax and embrace his fun side (and learn to walk up stairs too!)
Tristan and Winterkin benefitted hugely from having TKT every week to play and let loose. Social opportunities for dogs can help reduce the stress that is inherent in sheltering, and Tristan and Winterkin beautifully exemplify the healing power of play! Tristan quickly began to win the hearts of staff and volunteers alike and was adopted yesterday by a member of our B&T staff! He’s settling in well at home. His new name is Lemonade—because when life hands you a lemon, you send that lemon to playgroup to sweeten up! Hah.
Check out Lemonade and Winterkin (aka “Winnykinny”) playing. Winterkin was adopted through our rescue partners Welcome Home Sanctuary and he’s living the life in the Santa Cruz mountains.
Another Test Kitchen Success Story…
The cute pittie wearing the coat in this playgroup video with Tristan and Winterkin is a dog Katy found in front of her house one night: “She had had puppies and was dumped in the park near where I live. I brought her inside and set her up for a sleepover and then took her to SFACC the next day. She was a star player in TKT but needed some confidence building—she went to a great foster through Grateful Dogs Rescue and I believe is being adopted! So just a win/win/win!”
B&T Acting Supervisor Katy Jones recently completed the winter course with Shelter Playgroup Alliance, a group of folks that support healthy interdog relations in shelters and is positive-reinforcement/science based. The winter cohort is a four-month course for shelter workers, dog trainers, and anyone looking to beef up their knowledge of canine body language and conspecific social behaviors. Learn more about Shelter Playgroup Alliance…