2012-03-14 / Top News

New fitness program helps people and pooches

BY ELLA NAYOR


Employees and volunteers from Lee County’s animal shelter find long walks with dogs mutually beneficial. 
ELLA NAYOR / FLORIDA WEEKLY Employees and volunteers from Lee County’s animal shelter find long walks with dogs mutually beneficial. ELLA NAYOR / FLORIDA WEEKLY A Lee County agency has created a program that benefits homeless pets, people’s waistlines and taxpayers’ wallets.

Lee County Domestic Animal Services has created a fitness club to complement Lee County government’s initiative to encourage fitness among its employees.

Donna Ward, the LCDAS director, came up with the fitness club as a way to not only keep staff and volunteers fit, but also to give the dogs who are in kennels during the day a chance to get needed exercise.

The program is put into action every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m., said Ria Brown, public information officer for LCDAS.

Animal service volunteers and staff meet up at the shelter, leash up the dogs and trek to Six Mile Cypress Parkway to Home Depot on the corner of U.S. 41 and back.


Members of the fitness club relax after a brisk walk. 
COURTESY PHOTO Members of the fitness club relax after a brisk walk. COURTESY PHOTO So far, the program is a success by both two-legged and four-legged standards.

“The first day they (staff and volunteers) noticed a big difference,” Ms. Brown said. There were less barking and bathroom breaks.”

If veteran LCDAS volunteer BJ Gerald had things her way, she would be racing around every day with the shelter dogs.

“The dogs were so enthusiastic,” Ms. Gerald said. “They were all happy with big smiles on their faces.”

By the time the jog is over, dogs appear calmer and even seem to look forward to heading back to their kennels.

It brought a smile to Ms. Gerald’s face to see so many happy and relaxed dogs.

Just going out to join other fellow canines, smell the grass and breathe fresh air is vital to keeping a dog feeling good.

“It really enriches these dogs’ lives,” Ms. Gerald said. “I just wish we could do it every day.”

Volunteers are encouraged to join the fitness club. Stay in shape, give a homeless dog joy and all for no cost. What could be better? Ms. Ward and Ms. Brown hope this mindset catches and spreads in the community.

“We would hope that we can build on this and make it a regular part of our routine,” Ms. Brown said.

The outings also serve to make the dogs visible to prospective adopters as they are seen walking along the welltraveled route.

For more information, or to volunteer, call LCDAS at 533-7387 or go to www.leelostpets.com. ¦ >> What: Fitness Club at Lee County Domestic Animal Services >> When: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. >> Where: Lee County Domestic Animal Services, 5600 Banner Drive Fort Myers >> Other information: The Fitness Club is free and open to LCDAS staff and volunteers. For more information, go to www.leelostpets.com.

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