Austin College students in the Human Environmental Animal Team filled the Sherman Animal Shelter’s play yards with cheering, running, and games of fetch on Tuesday morning, part of a three-year-long tradition of HEAT members socializing with older dogs at the shelter.

Austin College students in the Human Environmental Animal Team filled the Sherman Animal Shelter’s play yards with cheering, running, and games of fetch on Tuesday morning, part of a three-year-long tradition of HEAT members socializing with older dogs at the shelter.


HEAT member Lauren Bolinger said the group encourages students to play with the older dogs because they are less likely to be adopted than the young puppies. Bolinger said the volunteers sometimes wrestle with attachment to certain dogs after multiple visits.


"It’s hard coming here every week, because you see who’s here and who’s not here," Bolinger said, "There was a pitbull that was here a few weeks ago. I know certain breeds don’t get adopted as readily, so that’s really hard for me; I have a soft spot for pitbulls."


Bolinger and HEAT President Gideon Ibemere reminisced sadly with HEAT officer Omar Hasan about a certain large dog that each remembered fondly. All three volunteers have a keen sense of the group’s mission, however, and they brightened up instantly when a Sherman Animal Services officer nearby said, "He was a mastiff and pitbull mix. He was adopted a couple of days ago."


Ibemere said support for the weekly carpooling event had been easy to find at AC. "No one can say no to puppies," Ibemere said, "This is the year it’s really picked up. It’s a more engaging way to do community service. We get about 15-20 every time.


Bolinger said the event is part of HEAT’s mission to raise animal rights awareness. The group volunteers and organizes donation drives for local shelters, and Bolinger said they are currently working on organizing student support for a "meatless Mondays" event at AC.


Bolinger later said that 26 volunteers went ont Tuesday’s trip, making it the largest such event in HEAT’s three-year history. Most of the students wrangled the shelter’s dogs admirably. Only a couple of the volunteers struggled with their canine companions, and Bolinger was always active, rushing to the side of of the less experienced dog handlers in the group.


"It’s really nice to have Lauren, and I’m pretty good with dogs," Ibemere said, "when we come here I know who to help with the dogs. We don’t have a lot of problems; No one here is a negative person and we preach positive activism, so when you bring positive energy around dogs, no one gets jittery or afraid."