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North Bay Pets magazing During a hospital stay Victoria decided that she wanted to make a change, so she started Paws Plus, a dog walking and sitting service. She works with a variety of dogs, caring for some of them overnight. It has taught her to be observant, detail oriented and inquisitive - experience that serves her well as a volunteer dog walker with the Humane Society.

What dog walkers do:
Dog walkers provide a much-needed service by taking shelter dogs outside each day for exercise and socialization. This yard time gives the dogs a break from the indoor kennels and helps to keep them healthy and relaxed. Each Thursday Victoria begins her shift by reviewing the logbook, reading other dog walkers' comments. Then she takes out each dog in turn. The dogs happily sniff their way around the exercise yard, enjoying the personal attention. Grooming, reinforcing good manners training, and throwing balls for the more active dogs are all part of the routine.

Wintertime is tough. After standing out in the rain, volunteers must towel off each dog and clean the mud off of their feet before returning them to their kennels.

Dog walkers must be firm, patient and loving. Many of the shelter dogs are antsy from their confinement and need time to settle down. Volunteers also must radiate confidence and not show fear around the animals. One of the biggest occupational hazards for dog walkers is the risk of attachment. They can form strong bonds while working with dogs over time. Victoria knows. While at the shelter, she became so fond of Blanca, a Golden Retriever-Labrador mix, that she recently adopted her.

Victoria enjoys her work with the shelter dogs. As she puts it, "I like everything about it. The dogs are so happy to see me. And it gives me such satisfaction to know that I am doing something good for them. It is an honor to help these dogs. They give so much back." Victoria also helps out with the Tail Waggin' at offsite adoption events. "I help wherever I can," she says.

"Thanks, Victoria, for your willingness and your special touch with our shelter dogs. You handle them with confidence, gentleness and affection."