That is what an Indian family discovered as team participants of Santa Clara County Parks online social media game, Parks For Life Challenge.
County parks and the Santa Clara County Animal Shelter joined forces to help promote the shelter’s newest program, Foster Field Trip and Shelter Dog Sleep Over. Participants of the Parks For Life Challenge earned game points for taking a sheltered dog for a walk in a county park.
While the program was designed to benefit sheltered dogs by providing an opportunity to explore the outside world and to evaluate the dog’s ability to socialize, the program unexpectedly created a life-changing experience for the Kanagala family.
Their walk in the park, they said, altered the family’s behavior toward dogs and dispelled an ingrained cultural belief. Ajay, the father, noted that in India the dog culture is much different than in the United States. Typically, dogs are not considered pets in India, but more of an animal that people are terrified of. “Unlike Americans, we see dogs as scary animals. My wife and oldest daughter are terrified of dogs and stayed away from them as much as possible because that’s how they were raised.”
Enter Winston, a 10-year old Pit Bull Terrier considered to be a long-term stay dog at Santa Clara County Animal Shelter. The first time the family took Winston out of the shelter they asked for a crate for him to ride in while in the car.
While walking him, only Ajay would hold the leash, and his two daughters would stay behind. Toward the end of the walk, Anika, the younger daughter, began to get closer and pet Winston. On the second outing Ajay asked for a crate, yet didn’t make Winston ride in it. While hiking Ajay noticed Anika interacting more with Winston, courageously asking to hold the leash.
Anya, the older daughter, and Ajay’s wife, Chalana, began to realize there was nothing to fear and became comfortable around Winston. On the third outing, Ajay said he skipped the crate and let Winston share the backseat of the car with the kids. Another breakthrough occurred while the Anika was walking Winston: Chalana and Anya started to pet Winston. In no time at all the gentle pats on the back became warm friendly hugs.
“If it was not for the Parks For Life Challenge, my family would still see dogs as terrifying animals the same way they did back in India,” said Ajay. The family is now strongly considering adopting a sheltered dog.