Keeping dogs healthy and happy has surprising benefits for their humans

Jodi Davis

| 3 min read

Taking a dog for a walk. It’s a simple act which doesn’t require much except a dog, a leash and a caring individual to lead the dog – or maybe the other way around! Dogs truly enjoy taking a walk; it’s often the highlight of their day. A wonderful group of individuals who take care of the homeless dogs at the Humane Society of Southwest Michigan know this.
They also know that walking is wonderful for their own good health; it’s an enjoyable exercise that doesn’t cost a penny. For those reasons, five Humane Society staff members made the decision to take the shelter dogs from the HSSM for a walk every day before the shelter was open to the public. They began this daily walking routine in May 2012. A 2.5 mile route was charted by the group and then they were on their way, each with at least one dog by their side, oftentimes two and occasionally three.
The first few weeks of this daily 2.5 mile journey took approximately 1.25 hours to complete. Before long the dogs realized that there was a pace to stay focused on, and you’d better believe that the dogs and their human friends were aiming to achieve it.
After a month or so, this same daily walk took closer to a half hour to complete! And there was another achievement that came as a surprise to these remarkable five … they shed 130 pounds! Taking those sweet, homeless dogs for a daily walk, five times a week for those few months gave some very sweet results.
I spoke with them about this daily routine and discovered that not only did this walk give the dogs and their accompanying humans a vast amount of joy, but it created joy in others as well. Individuals who lived along their walking route soon learned that this energetic group would be walking by about the same time each day and so they would wait. Once the dogs and the “famous five” were in eye’s view, the waving and happy shout-outs began. The dogs loved it. Why wouldn’t they? They were in their own little pooch parade!
They also noticed the terrier mixes are some of the best walkers because they have an abundant amount of energy and stay focused on the walk. I agree since terrier mixes are my absolute favorite, I have two that I adopted from the shelter who walk with me every single day. And of course, Sierra, who was there right alongside me when I walked off 162 pounds, was a terrier mix as well. Mission and Inferno are terrier mixes who are up for adoption at the shelter now. Mission led the parade back in May of 2012 and still does today; he would love a family to walk him daily.
My favorite comment came from the staff member who lost 33 pounds. She told me that she didn’t believe me when I talked about how great walking was, even though I claimed it was how I lost my weight. But then she lost her excess weight and realized that she was still eating what she wanted and the pounds remained off; all because of those daily walks. I just wonder how many other people feel that way?
These five HSSM staff members: Rex -who lost the most (42 pounds), Jill, Alissa, David and Kiley have proven once again how well walking works! They are true heroes in my book, not only because of their dedication towards better health for the shelter dogs along with themselves, but also for their devotion to their occupation as they care deeply for each animal at the shelter.
Taking a dog for a walk is a wonderful idea. Taking a shelter dog home for a walk is even better!

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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