Parading pups hope to find homes

By Gisselle Hernandez, Features Editor

The annual highly-anticipated Homecoming Parade wouldn’t be complete without the Humane Society’s adoptable dogs prancing among the loud bands and colorful floats as they make their way down Murray’s Court Square this weekend.

The Humane Society has been walking their adoptable dogs in the parade since the ’80s, one of the events Kathy Hodge, executive director of the Humane Society of Murray-Calloway County, said is “strictly just for fun and to have a good time.” The Humane Society hosts a number of events in hopes of getting the pups adopted, though Hodge said the Homecoming Parade is one of their favorites. The adoptable dogs are all posted on PetFinder.com and Hodge said it helps tremendously since people can see which dogs they like beforehand.

“We post all our animals there, but nothing is quite the same as actually seeing the dog and being able to pet the dog after the parade,” she said.

When walking the dogs in the parade, Hodge said people point out which one they like and give their contact information to the Humane Society so they can contact them later about a dog they’re interested in. The people then fill out an application to adopt the dog but the process doesn’t end there. Hodge said there are some precautions they must go through to make sure the dogs find a good home. Some of these include talking to the landlord to make sure he is OK with pets, calling the family’s veterinarian as a reference and they also look at financial stability. Hodge said it doesn’t matter if someone is a college student or 60 years old, if they haven’t had financial responsibility over a dog in the last three or four years, they must fill out a “homework sheet” with different questions about caring for the animal since it can cost more than some people expect.

Adoption events have no set trend when hosted, Hodge said, with some events expected to be marginal winding up being big and events expected to attract people don’t have as much traffic. She said it also depended on the types of adoptable pups they had. If there are healthy cute puppies at one event, Hodge said they would get adopted much more quickly than adult dogs at another event. The Humane Society also sees some sort of calendar for when people adopt dogs.

“Not as many people adopt dogs in January or February because they’re not interested in house training the dog in the snow so sometimes that can be the case,” she said.

Hodge said the Humane Society is also responsible for the matchmaking between pets and owners.

“It’s not a successful adoption if a dog is not the right one for the person or if the person is not the right one for the dog so matchmaking is really what we’re in the business of doing,” she said.

This can prove to be difficult whenever someone meets a dog in person, Hodge said, because they get carried away by all the cuteness.

“It’s so easy to get caught up in how absolutely precious they are and it can be an absolute precious six-week-old or ten-week-old puppy,” she said. “But it’s going to need all the things it’s going to need regardless of how cute it is at that moment.”

Because of this, Hodge said they have to be cautious around Christmas time, when people want to gift dogs.

“We have to be sure they don’t just want the big yellow puppy with the red bow in front of the Christmas tree picture and realize three months later ,‘Oh my God, this dog is chewing up everything in this house’ and it ends up back in the shelter,” she said.

The Humane Society still does gift adoptions but they talk to the families first to make sure that’s what they truly want and aren’t just emotional.

Hodge said when they first started walking dogs in the parade, they walked from the animal shelter until they decided to open their own separate adoption program 16 years ago. Now, they walk dogs from both locations with the help of the Animal Health Technology Pre-Veterinarian Club. Hodge said over the years, the AHT Pre-vet club would alternate between them walking the dogs and the Humane Society having a float, and other times vice versa.

Vasiliki Wilk, senior from Rineyville, Kentucky, is the president of the Pre-vet Club and said it works very closely with the Humane Society. She said the parade is just one of the events they collaborate on. As for the parade, Wilk said it’s very beneficial for the dogs.

“Yes, it’s important, not only for the animals, but these types of activities bring the community together,” she said.  “It’s great exercise for us, as well as the dogs and gives them more of a chance to be adopted and have a ‘forever home.’”

However, careful planning goes into the walking of dogs. For instance, Hodge said they must select dogs who have the right temperament to be in such a loud and large parade else some dogs might get freaked out by all the commotion. The dogs must also be up to date with their vaccinations so if they come into contact with another dog they don’t know, they don’t acquire anything from each other, Hodge said.

Despite the dogs expected to be unnoticeable in such a large parade, Hodge said people on the sidelines always notice them walking behind the Humane Society banner. She said people will always point and talk about the dogs, which surprises her because of all the other things going on around them.

“I’ve never gone anywhere that an animal couldn’t get more attention than anything else,” she said. “I think animals have a way of getting into our hearts in a way that nothing else does.”