By Agrippina Fadel
Having good company for lunch is essential, and Brandee Smith had found some paw-sitively perfect dates for her Sunday outings through the Broward County Animal Shelter Lunch Buddy program.
A long-time Coral Springs resident and a police department employee of over 30 years, Smith found out about the volunteering opportunity through a friend and has been making the drive to the Broward County Animal Care and Adoption Center in Fort Lauderdale every weekend.
“I take out a different dog every time; usually the one that staff believes needs a break from the shelter environment. I pick them up at 11 a.m. and bring them back at 4 p.m.,” she said.
Sometimes Smith goes out to lunch to restaurants where the dogs are allowed, takes a walk along the New River in Fort Lauderdale, or goes to one of the many county parks.
“It helps the dogs decompress a little,” said Smith. “They stay in cages until they’re adopted and have to listen to all the barking every day, which can be stressful. Getting out, taking a walk, and getting some exercise is great for them. Even something as simple as smelling the grass and the sidewalks, which all dogs love to do, can be very exciting for these pups.”
Smith enjoyed her lunch with Julie – a six-year-old American Staffordshire – so much that she took her out twice. Julie is a sweet and gentle dog that is housebroken, follows commands, and takes the treats nicely. This week she has moved to a rescue called Darbster Foundation and is still available for adoption.
Smith explained that the Lunch Buddy program exposes the dogs to the community. The dogs wear a vest that says “adopt me,” come with leashes, toys, and a collapsable water bowl. People who encounter them on walks and at restaurants can see their personalities and envision them as family pets.
“After a lunch date, the shelter can get a better reading on the dog and know what kind of family would be a perfect fit for them. Some dogs can pull on the leash and require a lot of exercise; others enjoy relaxing and hanging out. Some pups want to smell the flowers – literally. The dog I took out last weekend wanted to stop and sniff every flower we passed by,” she said.
Smith was always a cat person but has a sweet spot for pit bulls. She has taken out six different pit bull-mix dogs for lunch, and every one of them was extremely friendly and grateful.
“They did great in the car and were generally very happy to be out and about. Most of them were very affectionate. I know many people are hesitant to adopt a pit-mix, but from my experience, they were always so sweet,” she said.
Smith added that participating in the program helps her as well. By walking a dog, she gets the opportunity to go out and get some fresh air by taking a walk in the park – something she says everyone can use after being indoors for so long during the pandemic.
The Lunch Buddies program has been around for over four years and is open to all Broward residents over 18. High school students can participate with parents’ or guardians’ permission. The dogs can be taken out for a day, overnight, or a weekend. The paperwork is minimal, and the shelter provides the food, toys, and leash for the dog.
To take a dog out for lunch or inquire about the fostering opportunities, email the shelter at firstname.lastname@example.org. To schedule a meet-and-greet appointment and learn more about the adoptable pets, email ACADadoptions@broward.org.
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- Agrippina Fadel grew up in Siberia and received her master's in journalism from Tyumen State University. Agrippina is also a writer and editor at Draftsy.net. She has been a US resident for over ten years and speaks English and Russian.
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