GSHS receives $10K grant for backyard renovation

Thursday, September 23, 2021
Good Shepherd Humane Society animal services director Cole Wakefield demonstrates how tarps are used to create shade in the outdoor activity area for dogs. Thanks to a $10,000 matching grant, the area will be completely renovated in the near future.
Samantha Jones / Lovely County Citizen

With the help of a generous donor, Good Shepherd Humane Society is planning to renovate the backyard activity area for dogs.

Animal services director Cole Wakefield said the organization received a $10,000 matching grant to renovate the entire back area of the shelter.

The plan is to take down all the existing fencing, put in pea gravel and erect new fencing with a different layout. The layout will include individual enclosures, Wakefield said, and the reconfiguration of the play yard.

“It will be a small dog play yard,” Wakefield said. “Then we’ll have a multiple-section large dog play yard that can be used as one yard or two yards, so it’ll be in line with all the current best practices and standards.”

Right now, Wakefield said, the enclosures are separated by chain-link fences and shade is provided by tarps.

“We’re constantly having to put up tarps and replace tarps,” Wakefield said. “It’s not the best. Everything is kind of pieced together. They did the best they could with what they had over the last 20 years the building has been here.”

Wakefield continued, “Now, we’re going to take this opportunity to bring this up to the standard that we maintain in the rest of the facility. It’s really exciting. As far as our physical facility goes, it is the area in the most need.”

Wakefield said the adoption center sits on 10 acres, but much of that area is made up of ravines and rocks. The back area will span an acre when the project is complete, Wakefield said.

“We do own the land around us, which gives us a lot of flexibility in what we can do,” Wakefield said.

Wakefield said there are seven enclosures in the back area. The current layout presents many challenges, he said. There aren’t proper dividers in place, Wakefield said, so when dogs are moved around, other dogs can see everything that’s happening.

“If the dogs don’t know each other, it can cause a lot of stress,” Wakefield said. “And, of course, it gets muddy back here and in the winter we have issues with snow. It can be kind of a mess.”

The new layout will maintain the same amount of enclosures, Wakefield said, but the integrated play yards will offer more enrichment opportunities for the dogs. Some dogs can stay in the same enclosure, he said, which helps with their social skills and increases the capacity in the back area. Wakefield said he’s excited to bring the play yard inside the shelter’s secured fence.

“Our current play yard is not inside our secured fence. You actually have to go outside of the fence to the play yard, which is always a safety concern,” Wakefield said. “So we are going to bring that into a secured area and add an additional play yard that actually has a couple of safety enhancements and shade structures.”

Wakefield said he’s seen dogs come alive when they’re introduced to play groups.

“We’ve seen dogs we thought were not dog-friendly become best friends with other dogs,” Wakefield said. “We see our stress indicators inside the shelter go down, and the new configuration will allow us to increase our play groups and enrichment.”

Mental health is just as important as physical health for animals, Wakefield said.

“Being a shelter is more than just providing food and water,” he said. “If you really want to take care of an animal, you have to take care of the whole animal. The back yard renovation will greatly enhance our ability to take care of the whole dog.”

Additionally, Wakefield said, you learn a lot about dogs when they play with other dogs.

“We learn so much more about them when they’re interacting with each other than we do just seeing them by themselves or in a kennel,” Wakefield said. “It’s a huge difference.”

Wakefield pointed to German Shepherds Stryker and Bolto, who share an enclosure. When Bolto tried to play with Stryker, Stryker indicated he didn’t want to play and Bolto backed off.

“That’s exactly the kind of social interaction we want to see,” Wakefield said. “Bolton did something, Stryker responded and everybody adjusted their behavior accordingly. That’s a healthy interaction, and the backyard project gives us the opportunity to have more healthy interactions like that.”

Wakefield said he’s started contacting contractors, making it important to raise the $10,000 matching funds.

“We want to get this done as quickly as possible, because there’s going to be a time when we have to shut down the back temporarily,” Wakefield said. “That’s why we want to go ahead and raise those matching funds as fast as we can.”

To donate to the project, visit www.GoodShepherd-HS.org or call the adoption center at 479-253-9188.

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