ANDERSON — Skyla Baird struggled to hold on to the excited black Lab mix pulling her down the sidewalk.
Baird, 16, was one of five volunteers participating in the first the Ernie’s Walkers May Walk on Saturday.
“I have always had a love for animals,” she said, struggling to keep her balance as the Lab strained to sniff the surrounding shrubbery. “This is something I enjoy doing.”
The hour-long walk, coordinated by Ernie’s Heart Pet Food Pantry’s Jan Smith, is the first of many to come, organizers said. Plans to have a walk at least once a month are already in place, but Smith said she hopes it can be done more frequently.
“It’s good exercise for us, and we can get the dogs out,” she said.
The first walk also corresponded with the monthly pet food pantry, Smith said. Prior to the walk, Ernie’s Heart Pet Food Pantry distributed 1,700 pounds of pet food, she said.
Colleen Miller, shelter manager and adoption coordinator, said there were five volunteers participating in the first official Ernie’s Walkers May Walk.
Miller said she was very appreciative of Smith’s efforts to get more people involved in walking the dogs.
“They are willing to get these dogs out and get them seen,” she said. “The more places they can be seen, the better it is for them.”
Miller said the shelter environment is particularly hard for the animals.
“It’s kind of like jail for them,” she said. “It’s loud and stressful and not a home environment like many of them are used to. Although they are strays or have been surrendered, they still knew some kind of a home.”
Taking the dogs on a walk helps them improve their social skills, helps with leash manners and gives the animals an opportunity to interact with people other than the staff, Miller said.