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A Sensory Garden for dogs. Something you don’t see or think about every day. But thanks to the generosity of Park Place Dealerships, the expertise of our very own Veterinary Behaviorist, Dr. Valarie Tynes, and the ingenuity of our staff, SPCA of Texas has a remarkable Sensory Garden.
The brightly colored tire tunnels, climbing table shapes, sand pit and other agility obstacles were built over two days by volunteer staff members from Park Place Dealerships, a longtime supporter of SPCA of Texas. You see, Park Place Dealerships offers their employees paid volunteer days to support local nonprofits in their mission.
“As we look at how we make the decisions of where we give of our resources—our time and our finances—we look at four main pillars: Arts; Education; Medical Research; and Advocacy,” explained Park Place Dealerships Managing Director Tony Carimi. “There is no better advocate for our four-legged friends than the SPCA of Texas, and we are blessed here in Dallas, to have the crown jewel of the SPCA in the United States right here. Our team members definitely wanted to do something special for the dogs at SPCA of Texas this year,” he added.
After working closely with SPCA of Texas Shelter Veterinary Behaviorist Valarie V. Tynes, DVM, DACVB, DACAW, and our Development team, it was decided that the group would build a Sensory Garden at the SPCA of Texas Animal Care Center. Dr. Tynes—one of fewer than 10 shelter vets in the US who has board certifications in behavior and welfare—noted that a Sensory Garden is important in the shelter setting for several reasons.
“The Garden encourages dogs to interact with their surroundings and the agility obstacles relieve stress for overactive dogs as they await a loving, forever home,” she said. “The Sensory Garden’s different textures, scents and materials stimulate a dog’s brain, activate his/her natural canine instincts and build confidence as well as provide mental and physical challenges for our shelter pets.”
On a chilly Friday in November of 2023, here they came, dozens of Park Place employees from various positions and DFW locations, dressed in T-shirts and jeans—ready to dig, paint, haul rocks, and do just about anything necessary to create the coolest Sensory Garden any dog could want.
In February 2023, we held a Sensory Gardening Opening to thank Park Place Dealerships leadership and the volunteer staff members who worked so hard to make life better for our dogs. We wanted the audience to see what it took to hand build the Garden and to see how much dogs love it! Take a look here.
Following a brief program, we went outside to the Sensory Garden where Behavior Coordinator Hanna Hartman put Pango through his paces on the agility obstacles. Enticed by treats, he did a great job not only climbing and sitting as asked, but also using his olfactory senses sniffing around the rosemary bushes on his own.
It was during our visit to the Garden that SPCA of Texas Behavior Program Manager Rebecca Woodward shared exciting news about it with our visitors from Park Place Dealerships.
“We use the Sensory Garden to do behavior modification for high arousal, jumpy, mouthy dogs,” she said. “Essentially, what we started doing was creating a program for these dogs using agility because of this garden.
“Once we started doing that, we were able to decompress the dogs and they were getting adopted more quickly than before. It’s a really good outlet for those high energy, kennel stressed dogs,” Woodward added.
And, it’s a wonderful place for staff members and volunteers to take a moment to enjoy the pups as they dig in the sand pit, run around or take a dip in the swimming pool in the bright, cheerful Garden.
All the doggone news? Cute cat pictures? Ways you can get involved? You bet.
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