By Janet McAfee

Calling all Coachella Valley animal lovers!  Now is the perfect time to adopt a fabulous pet from a shelter!  The cooler Coachella Valley fall weather makes for great hikes with your new 4-legged hiking buddy.  An adopted cat purring on your lap during the cooler evenings keeps you happy and even improves your health, warding off the winter flu.

Where to start your search for a new best fur friend?  The Coachella Valley Animal Campus (CVAC) in Thousand Palms operated by Riverside County is the largest animal shelter in our region.  They have dogs, puppies, cats and kittens of every variety.  Estimates run that up to 40% of the animals in shelters are pure breeds, or certainly have the appearance of them, and cost much less than the thousands of dollars breeders charge.

CVAC recently started some wonderful new programs that benefit their animals and provide seasonal joy to our residents AND visitors.  The modern building has indoor/outdoor kennels and spacious visiting areas where you can get acquainted with Fido or Fluffy.

DOG PLAY GROUPS – Dogs are pack animals and love to be with each other.  Local nonprofit Society’s Outkasts Animal Rescue (SOAR) purchased the property adjoining the shelter and created a park where groups of dogs spend time out of their kennels enjoying canine companionship.  Participating dogs are exercised, socialized, and prepared for forever homes that already have a dog.  Large dogs and small dogs have separate play groups.  The public is welcome to come watch the fun from the adjoining parking lot.  Studies show 20 minutes of play is equivalent to two hours of walking, maximizing staff and volunteer time.

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FOSTER FIELD TRIP – Whether you are a full time resident, snow bird, or visiting for a local festival, you can help the animals through this program.  You can help select your animal and take it out of the shelter for anytime between one hour and one week.  The shelter ensures the dog is vaccinated, microchipped, and tagged with their phone number.  A full time county employee is assigned to the Foster Field Trip program to help with training tips, etc.  One young couple interested in senior dogs were unsure which would be a good fit checked out a 12-year-old Chihuahua.  The smart pup happily played with their children, and they quickly became “foster failures”.  Even if not adopting, this exposure leads to expanded networking including social media.

In the past, fostering animals from this facility was focused only on underage kittens and puppies requiring bottle feeding.  Now you can open your heart and home to help socialize and transition a dog or cat of any age to its second chance home.

RIDING WITH ROVERS – S.O.A.R provided CVAC with a supply of bicycles and apparatus bars that attach a dog to a bicycle.  This is a great way to exercise an overly active dog such as a Husky. Everyone is kept safe as the attaching bars are quick lock and release.  Donations of adult size new and used bicycles are needed.  Staff reports how much fun they have bonding with their canine cycling companion, and the dogs love it!

VOLUNTEER – While other programs involve volunteers, volunteers are always needed to help with shelter based tasks.  Dolores Anderson has volunteered at CVAC for 6 years.  She tells us, “My duties include bathing the animals, walking the dogs, and helping take professional looking photographs of them.  It’s the best feeling knowing that my work helps get an animal socialized and adopted.  We need more volunteers, especially those who can handle the large breed dogs.  I absolutely love doing this.  Please join our volunteer team!”

Jackie Schart, Animal Services Chief at CVAC, states, “The best part of these programs is how they get the animals out of the shelter and the exposure that brings them.  Even taking them for an hour long outing makes a difference for that dog.  People who haven’t been to the shelter see them with their friends and neighbors.  Volunteers put them on social media which promotes adoptions.  One family who recently came in never had a dog before, and fostering was a great way to make sure they were ready for one.  They happily adopted their foster dog within a week.”

Jackie advises anyone wanting to adopt or volunteer come into the Coachella Valley Animal Campus between 10:00am and 4:00pm Monday through Saturday when they are open to the public.  Staff will help you complete the needed application and you can see some of their animals.  Conveniently located at 72-050 Pet Land Place in Thousand Palms, their contact information is www.rcdas.org and (760) 343-3644.

Did you know helping and adopting a rescue dog or cat is a badge of honor?  If you are single, walking your dog or taking him to a dog park is a great way to meet new people?  Your efforts expand the walls of the shelter, and in turn you receive the grateful love of these rescue cats and dogs.

Janetmcafee8@gmail.com