Winnipeg’s Doggie Date program creating lasting ‘furever’ friends

Winnipeg’s Doggie Date program creating lasting ‘furever’ friends

You’d be barking mad to turn down a date with a cute pooch.

Winnipeg Animal Services Agency’s Doggie Date program began four months ago, and it’s being billed as a means of giving the dogs a break from the shelter while providing their human “dates” with exercise and connection.

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“Most of the people that we’re seeing participate don’t necessarily want to adopt a dog but they love dogs and they want to help,” Leland Gordon, Chief Operating Officer with Winnipeg Animal Services Agency, said.

“They’ll take a dog out for an afternoon, for an evening, for a weekend or a week.”

But some Doggie Date alumni are taking it to the next level — though that’s not the initiative’s real goal.

Robert Graham and Mary McInnes knew they were looking for a dog when they learned about the program.

Robert Graham and Mary McInnes adopted Bella after taking her on a week-long date.

Graham lost his last dog a few years ago, and said he was tentative when the couple first met Bella.

“We took her to the parks to socialize her with other dogs,” McInnes said of their week-long trial with Bella. “She was very good about when we called her, to come right to us — like she knew our voices already.”

During that week, the couple decided to make it official — giving their furry date a forever home.

“The first time I knew we wanted her was when we changed her name, because her actual name when we got her was Babybel — like the cheese,” McInnes said. “And so when we decided on Bell, when we said Bella, we said ‘Okay, that’s our dog.’”

Anneliese Fritz added Lincoln Continental IV to her family a few months ago. She’s always adopted dogs from the shelter, but feels the program is a good trial run for anyone considering adopting a dog.

Lincoln visits Santa at the shelter on Logan.

“I went to visit him, to see if we clicked,” Fritz said. “Then I sent my husband to visit him, and then they said ‘We have Doggie Dates — would you like to take him on a Doggie Date?’”

Fritz brought Lincoln home for a week before officially adopting him. Over that period, she learned he had a slight fear of adult men, but that he wasn’t a big chewer and left their furniture alone.

“I do think that this is an excellent idea, try before you buy, because I watch some people bring them back,” Fritz said.

“This is a commitment. I’m looking at 13, 14 years. It’s not just ‘Yay, I got a puppy,’ — some people should realize that.”

McInnes said the lengthy date allowed them to get a feel for what Bella was like in their environment.

“I love getting out, especially off-leash parks, so I wanted a dog that could get out and have some fun, so I wanted to test her out with other dogs — and she’s great with other dogs,” Graham said.

Anneliese Fritz adopted Lincoln after bringing him home for a week.

Doggie Dates are also being promoted a great way to introduce a dog to kids who are begging for a pet.

“If your kids are driving you nuts because they want a dog and you don’t think they’re ready and you want to take home a dog for the weekend, that’s a great idea for a Doggie Date — try that out,” Gordon said.

“If you’re going to the cabin in the Whiteshell for the weekend or you’re going to Kenora or somewhere wonderful in our green spaces around Manitoba and Ontario, and you want to take a dog for the weekend? We could probably do something like that.”

Gordon said while everyone wants a puppy — and admits puppies and small dogs go fast at the shelter — there are benefits to adopting an adult dog.

They’re house-trained, they’re less likely to chew your furniture, and you can teach an old dog new tricks.

“When you come to an animal shelter or a rescue and you adopt a dog that’s two years old, that Shepherd mix, that Husky Mix, that Lab mix, those types of things, I think those dogs know they’ve been rescued and I think they’re more loyal,” Gordon said.

Anyone interested in signing up for a Doggie Date can contact 311 or visit the Animal Services Agency at 1057 in person.

There’s a basic screening for people who haven’t participated in the program previously, including paying the full adoption fee for the dog — which is returned after the dog comes back to the shelter following the date.

Any subsequent dates do not require deposits.

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