SANTA FE (KRQE) - It's the number one New Year's resolution year after year, getting in shape and losing weight. At the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, man's best friend has taken on the role of workout buddy for some volunteers.
For more than a year now, Cindy Katz has volunteered twice a week at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, walking dogs that are up for adoption. She says it's rejuvenating for the soul, and it's also had an unintended and welcome side effect.
"Besides being around a lot of loving dogs and meeting a lot of great people that also volunteer here, I've lost almost 15 pounds in the last year," Katz says. "I walk Tuesdays and Thursdays for two hours."
About 50 people volunteer here regularly walking dogs, and Katz isn't the only who's lost a few pounds with these four-legged workout buddies. On average, a volunteer will walk about 10 dogs in two hours, which staff have figured out is an extra 160 calories burned.
Suzanne Fuqua is the director of behavior and training at the shelter. Fuqua says people have to go through hours of training before they can volunteer, but without volunteers these pooches don't get to stretch their legs much.
"It's unbelievably important. Our dogs only have access to outside if someone takes them out, so if they don't get walked by a volunteer, they have to stay in a kennel, which is a very nice kennel but gets very small very quickly," Fuqua says.
Fuqua says outdoor exercise is crucial to maintaining canine mental health, which in turn makes these dogs easier to adopt.
Getting these dogs into forever homes is the real reason Katz says she comes back each week.
"We're out in the wind, sleet, snow, whatever," Katz says. "these dogs get walked and we're all committed, no matter what the weather is."
Volunteers at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter have to be at least 12 years old, and have to go through canine socialization, body language and walking training before they can walk shelter dogs.