"Animals just have this way when you hold onto them or touch them of just slowing your heart rate down, slowing you down, giving you that unconditional love. Which is all anyone really wants," said Puppy Love's founder Sabrina Freed.
Puppy Love's mission is to help corporate workers relax and destress, through puppy playtime, fresh air and exercise -- hopefully finding forever homes for orphaned dogs in the process. One of the more recent ways the organization aims to achieve these goals is through doga, or dog yoga.
Doga sessions are led by Puppy Love's certified yoga instructor Beverly Bachoo, who begins sessions without dogs in order to help participants achieve a relaxed state of mind. After a series of poses, the dogs are released and will join however they wish.
Freed says that typically dogs will join in on the stretches in a variety of ways: some will sit near or on a participant, some will cuddle up with a poser, and others appear to join in on the stretches. Dogs don't receive any special training beforehand, so participants are encouraged to just go with the flow.
"The more relaxed people are the more relaxed the dogs will be. While people are doing poses, (dogs) will naturally incorporate into your pose or they will sit with you," Freed said, adding that dogs are provided from regional shelters but participants are encouraged to bring their own dogs if they are socialized.
Doga sessions will last for an hour and are typically followed with an hour-long "puppy party" where employees can walk, play and cuddle with puppies.
Freed said the programs are particularly popular among young professionals who through time or living constraints, cannot have their own dogs.
"People that don't have a dog or can't, they get this experience for a short amount of time," Freed said. "Especially so many of these younger millennials who are dying to have one but maybe can't for whatever reason."
While sessions give dogless animal lovers the opportunity to stretch, cuddle and play with many types of dogs, Freed still hopes that some of the participants will take home one of the dogs. And so far she has not been disappointed. Over the past six months, more than 30 dogs have found forever homes and new families.
Puppy Love always hopes participants will fall in love and adopt a pet, but Freed stressed her organization's strict policy on no same day adoptions. If someone really wants a dog they need to take a day and think on it; this reduces impulsive decisions and pet returns.
"We never adopt a dog the day of the event. We make sure that everyone goes home and thinks about it because it is way too much of an emotional moment," Freed said. "In the beginning when I did (allow it) they got returned."
Typically Freed will bring around 10 dogs to events, most of the time puppies, from several regional animal shelters she has partnered with. Shelters are responsible for representing themselves at these events and will receive 20% of the proceeds to help fund animal care and facility maintenance. Finding a Best Friend Rescue from Stockton is one of her largest suppliers of actual puppies.
Freed explained that Stockton is one of the worst areas in the region for animal cruelty and abandonment cases. The high rate of abandonment, combined with a lack of animal birth control, such as neutering, has led to a high number of puppies in need of homes.
Puppy Love's mission can really be summed up in their new philanthropic campaign "The Human Walking Program," which aims to have shelter dogs come to the rescue of the people who walk them.
"In the Human Walking Program the dogs are the heroes and they are going to walk the adults, get them out of their cubicle, get them outside breathing some fresh air and help them relax," Freed said. "We will have dogs there for (people) to walk and then we'll have a puppy play area as well."
The Human Walking Program works with regional corporations, so they can get involved in fundraising campaigns and have office employees volunteer during work hours to walk dogs who are also in need of some fresh air time. Much like Puppy Party and doga, the hope is that some of the employees will find a new furry friend to take home and brighten their day.
Freed imagines the campaign as a friendly competition between companies on who can raise the most money and be walked by the most dogs. She would like to extend the campaign locally to Bishop Ranch, which does not allow dogs inside but have several nearby parks that would be perfect for an event, she said.
For more information on Puppy Love or how you can help shelter animals, visit puppyloveparty.com.
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