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City Pairs Overweight Dogs with Overweight Humans (for walks)

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Leash on life: Wide Clyde, who tips the scales at 70 pounds, is both inspiration and beneficiary of the Richmond Animal Care and Control’s new exercise program. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Leash on life: Wide Clyde, who tips the scales at 70 pounds, is both inspiration and beneficiary of the Richmond Animal Care and Control’s new exercise program.

Dogs in Richmond’s animal shelter need exercise. So do desk-bound city employees.

Christie Peters, director of Richmond Animal Care and Control, wondered: Why not pair one with the other? WIth that, Richmond’s newest employee wellness program was born.

“We have this dog in the shelter named Wide Clyde and his name fits,” Peters says of the dog who’s 20 pounds overweight. “And he was sort of the inspiration — we were just trying to think of creative new ideas to get people into the shelter.”

The program, called Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound, opened to the public last week. It’s a win-win, Peters says: Animals get walks and city employees and dog lovers can work regular physical activity into their routines. Shelter staff has devised routes as long as two miles for those who want to keep track of how far they and Fido walk.

The city’s human resources department is folding Peters’ idea into an ongoing employee health program, with 20 people signed up so far. Jennifer Swinson, a 29-year veteran of the city’s Human Services Department, is among them.

Swinson says she walked a medium-sized, curly haired mutt named Roscoe for the first time last week. A former pet owner, Swinson says adding a dog into the mix makes exercising more fun: “Time really goes fast when you’re out with an animal.”

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