This last part — dare we say, the best part — is possible through a local outfit called Tails of the Trail.
The nonprofit got started a couple of years ago, when founder Kelly Stewart — who already led a Nashville hiking club — learned about shelters that encourage volunteers to borrow shelter dogs for day trips and hikes.
Inspired, excited, he began reaching out to area shelters and rescue groups — which started saying yes, right away.
“I got motivated,” Kelly tells BarkPost. “It was a huge success!”
Now, Tails of the Trail partners with about a dozen shelters and rescue groups. Generally, six hikes are held every month, mostly within a short drive of participating shelters — but sometimes, there are more far flung outings as well.
In this short time, some 1,800 people have come out. And Tails of the Trail recently celebrated its 1,000th dog hiked.
Her name is Sarah, and she’s a cutie from Montgomery County Animal Care and Control in Clarksville, Tennessee.
These jaunts are great for the dogs — getting them exercise, socialization, and a break from a stressful shelter environment.
“The pups return to the shelter happy, exercised, and ready for adoption,” says Kelly.
On top of that, the shelter dogs get exposed to a whole new pool of potential adopters. Both because they are out and about wearing “adopt me” vests and bandanas instead of sitting in the shelter waiting to be noticed, and because photos of the hikes get posted to social media.
Earlier this month, in fact, Tails of the Trail marked its 50th adoption or foster stemming from one of the group’s hikes.
Congratulations, Chelsea and Regina!
And of course, it’s great for people, too — who get some wonderful fun time romping around outside with a group of awesome dogs.
So how do you take part? Tails of the Trail announces upcoming hikes on its website — along with RSVP-ing instructions and fees, when applicable.
And in case you’re not in Nashville: Kelly’s looking to expand, and is encouraging folks in other cities who’d like to start up their own shelter dog hiking club — either under the auspices of Tails of the Trail or not — to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. One affiliate group’s already gotten started in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“We love hiking, we love dogs,” says Kelly. “This was a natural progression!”
Wait a month or so, and you may even get to meet Kelly’s foster dog on a hike. Her name is Sookie, and she’s a dog from a Tails of the Trail shelter partner, Cheatham County Animal Control.
Sookie’s being treated for heartworm now, which means she can’t exercise much for another few weeks.
“Keeping her calm, loving on her,” says Kelly. “We have not taken her on any long distance hikes but really look forward to it.”
All images via Tails of the Trail