By Christy Avery

As part of SASF’s 2015 grant to the Seattle Animal Shelter, $5,000 was earmarked for “quality of life” improvements for the animals. Some of the money will be used for behavioral consultations, training sessions, and enrichment toys for both dogs and cats. The money has also allowed dogs, both in the shelter and in foster homes, to visit the K9 Fun Zone, an indoor play space for dogs.

The K9 Fun Zone offers space in a former warehouse for dogs that benefit from having a private play area. Many shelter dogs need more physical exercise than they can get through the Shelter’s walking and running programs; some are fearful around other dogs; .others dislike winter weather and are reluctant to venture out in it. Many foster parents don’t have yards of their own for their dogs to play in. Physical exercise and mental stimulation are key to a dog’s happiness and health, and the Fun Zone offers agility equipment, a treadmill, and a large room to play ball or Frisbee. Dog pairs can use the space simply to play with each other. Thanks to the SASF grant, shelter and foster dogs have a place to exercise, learn new skills, and build confidence in a controlled environment.

The grant supports the important work that Shelter foster parents perform, as they work with fearful dogs or those in need of more training. Foster parent Jen brings her foster dog, Dylan, to the Fun Zone once or twice a week. She says, “It’s an awesome place! We have a wonderful relationship with (owner) Lindy and she helps by giving us private training and toenail trims every month.” At the Fun Zone, Dylan can exercise and learn new skills without encountering unknown off leash dogs. “He can run around and be a dog,” Jen says.

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Pam introduces Archie to the agility equipment.

The facility provides a welcome break for dogs with longer than average stays at the Shelter. Volunteer Pam regularly brought long-term Shelter resident Archie to the Fun Zone, and she explains, “The K9 Fun Zone was the only place outside the Shelter corrals where he could freely run around off leash. It was so good for him to have that kind of release.”  Archie had a rough start in life, and Pam credits the Fun Zone and owner Lindy to helping him be a happier, healthier dog. When Pam adopted Archie in February, the K9 Fun Zone even hosted a party in his honor.

K9 Fun Zone visits also help to keep high energy dogs adoptable. Daphne, a former foster dog who now works in narcotics detection, was difficult to walk and to tire out. Foster parent Tracy says, “It was so great to have a secure place that we could take her and let her just run.  We would play ball and flirt pole with her until she was exhausted.”

The SASF grant for Fun Zone visits will also help dogs find their forever homes. Foster parent Matt says the space was instrumental in the adoptions of his two foster dogs; they were both highly distracted by other dogs and because of this, wouldn’t pay attention to potential adopters at the shelter.  Matt says, “At K9 Fun Zone, their personalities shined, and they met their forever parents.” Foster parent Marron filmed a video of her foster dog Stanley at the Fun Zone to help promote him. “I thought seeing him in this environment really highlighted what a fun dog he was,” she says. Thanks to the Foundation grant, SAS dogs will continue to enjoy K9 Fun Zone visits throughout the year.

To help fund other quality of life grants that pay for training, toys, and K9 Fun Zone visits, please donate today.

Top photo: Dylan at the Fun Zone.