Texto: Verónica G. Kaufman (@vero_g_kaufman)
Fotos y videos: archivo Voluntarios Itinerantes
There’s something about people that never ceases to amaze me: their capacity to create. Today I’m going to tell you about one of the activities that I am most excited about with Voluntarios Itinerantes (VI): THE HAPPY DAY PROGRAM. To learn how this program came to life, how it’s being implemented and what the results look like up to now, I’ve interviewed Jaime Mateu (president of VI). Before we get started, I have good news: you can participate too! 😊
Where did the idea for a “Happy Day” program come from?
In my years of experience at animal shelters, I’ve observed that there are always some dogs who’ve been living there for years, are never adopted, and sadly die at the shelter. I’ve also noticed that when the caretakers believe an animal’s end of life is near, they try to give them a special day or a “happy day” (a nice walk or special food).
Voluntarios Itinerantes wants to give the dogs living at the shelter the opportunity to enjoy “happy days” periodically, instead of waiting until the very end. That’s why we created the Happy Day program, which we started implementing on a regular basis since September of 2022.
How does it work?
The program is aimed, mainly, for dogs who’ve been living at the Animals Sense Sostre shelter for a long time and have fewer opportunities to be adopted. Using these criteria, we selected 14 dogs to start. However, we’ve been able to expand the experience to 24 in total. Our goal is to provide this opportunity to as many dogs as possible.
Currently the program takes place on Sundays and includes the following formats:
HAPPY DAY AT THE BEACH: designed for dogs who love the water and need some extra space.
HAPPY DAY AT THE PARK: designed for dogs who need to disconnect from the daily noise of the shelter. This includes longer or shorter walks, according to their needs.
HAPPY DAY WITH CUDDLES: designed for dogs who need extra attention from humans, who love to play, be held and pet, etc.
HAPPY DAY IN THE MOUNTAINS: designed for dogs who need longer walks and, normally, don’t get them.
This is a program that’s just getting started and we’ve been making improvements as we go.
¿How do you know that’s it’s really a happy day for the dog?
The basic principle of the program, which has been clear to us from the beginning, is that not all animals need or want the same thing. Spending time with them on a weekly basis helps us learn about their likes and needs. This information is useful when we plan which type of “Happy Day” to offer each dog.
Can any volunteer participate in a Happy Day?
Yes. The program started with some of our veteran volunteers because they know most of the dogs well, but over time we’ve opened the opportunity to the rest of the group. In fact, we want new volunteers to participate and share their ideas and enthusiasm.
¿How would you rate the program now?
It’s going really well! This is a program we want to consolidate in the future. It’s clear that both dogs and volunteers have a great experience. For us, the real “happy day” is when a dog is adopted, but until this happens, we want to give them as many happy days as possible.
Thank so you much, Jaime!
To wrap up, I want to share that I’ve also participated in the program and it’s a truly beautiful experience. I invite you to check out how much fun the dogs have on their happy days: