We Love You Ikea

De-Stress by Renting a Dog for a Day

As a college student, stress levels and homesickness surge the deeper you get into your semester. Many things are available at the University of Alabama for those kinds of mental health stressors, stress balls, counselors, etc. And sometimes, petting a dog can ease that stress and remind you of your dog at home.

Sadly, dogs aren’t allowed everywhere. But what if you could have a dog for a day? Luckily for you there is a program called Happy Hour.

Happy Hour was started by the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter where you can “rent” a dog from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. The Happy Hour is open to most everyone who wants to be of service to the dogs with minor requirements. If you ever miss your dog, want to relieve some stress, or just want to help a furry friend out, Happy Hour is for you.

Photo of a dog to rent at TMAS

Pups like this are available to rent for a day or for adoption

And, coming soon, Happy Hour Overnight to give you a chance to spend even more time with students’ best friend.

The Happy Hour free program is very accessible to anyone wanting to participate. You do have to be at least 18 years old, which most college students are. You need to have a driver’s license and you will have to fill out a participation contract, then you have all you need to rent a dog! When you do get the go-ahead, you can take the dog anywhere – minus campus – the dog has to stay on the leash, bring the animal back by 4 p.m., only one dog per car, and you must always be with the animal. These instructions will be in the participation contract. But don’t let all these rules scare you, they are basic and simple, mandatory, but doable. And worth it.

When you step into the shelter after you go through the prior requirements, you get taken back to the area where they keep the animals. On average around 300 animals are kept at the shelter, The capacity is to handle overall 3,000 – 4,500 animals every year. You are met with rows upon rows of closet-sized cages with the dogs’ little eyes looking up at you in hopes of

We Get Happy

A group of Mosaic students, three photographers and me, wanted to experience Happy Hour. We went to the shelter and out of the so many adorable dogs there, picked a young dog named Ikea. Her black and white patterns of fur took our hearts over as she pawed at us through her cage. The moment we got her out of the cage, her personality shown as she couldn’t wait to get outside and loved sticking her head out of the car window.

Photo of the dog Ikea sticking her head out the window excited for the day ahead of her

Ikea sticks her head out the window excited for the day ahead of her

“The Happy Hour program at the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter, I think, is a great program,” said Luca Conti, UA student and photographer for Mosaic. “We got to rent Ikea, this sweet little dog today. It has been a lot of fun especially with the stressful week I had with school. It’s a nice way to try and relieve some of that stress and play with a dog and have fun. Also, they are up for adoption, so it’s nice for them to have human interaction, so when they, hopefully, meet their family, they already know how to handle it.”

The worst part about the Happy Hour is bringing the loving pup back, our hearts broken, we returned the precious Ikea to her cage. However, we knew she had a bright future ahead with a great family with her cute personality.

Photo of Luca Conti petting the dog Ikea

Luca Conti pets Ikea

If you are eligible to adopt a dog or another animal, the adoption process is quick and simple. First, fill out an adoption application form, making sure where you are living allows pets as well as making sure the dog is a good fit in your hands. Allow yourself a 30-45 minute window to meet with the dog, fill out paperwork, and ask any questions you may have.

The shelter also has an Adoptable Face Match, which matches your face with the dog they think would most mesh well with you. The price varies depending on age, animal, and time spent in the shelter, more information is on their website. The dogs also come with basic vaccinations, a microchip, and sometimes spaying/neutering.

“Renting a dog was one of the best experiences I have had on campus this year. I went during dead week, and taking a few hours from studying to have fun with a dog that has lived in a shelter its whole life was not only fun but also enlightening. In my experience, this dog took a liking to me, I could not take him back. A few days later, I adopted him,” Georgie Fickling, an engineering student at the University of Alabama, said. “His name is Kody and he is a one-year- old English Coonhound/Shepherd mix. He has been quite the experience, but for the most part, he is a good boy and I would not trade that experience for the world. Highly recommended.”

Photo of Sophia Surrett, Kate Merrill, and Luca Conti petting the dog Ikea

Sophia Surrett, Kate Merrill, and Luca Conti pet Ikea

Happy hour makes dogs more adoptable, raising the adoption rate. The shelter volunteers coming in vary between students and locals. Families come more during the holidays and more students come in during the school year and Fridays. Saturday is the biggest adoption day, so Happy Hour is unavailable.

The Man Who Started It All

Happy Hour was basically started by a happy gentleman volunteering in September, 2014, like clockwork every morning walking shelter dogs. Every day at the same time, he would walk as many as he could before he went home.

“He and I had many conversations about dog walking programs, how we would do it, he ending up passing away and they pushed [the program] through,” Jennifer Earp, director at the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter, said.

Earp has been working at the shelter for 22 years. Her passion grew from a summer job inspiring her to apply for the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter
where she worked every job up until the position she has now as the director, where her love for business and education led her.

“Not every dog can be rehomed, perhaps due to a history of problems, health issues, aggressive behavior, and so on,” Earp said.

This is one of the reasons the shelter advocate for spaying and neutering which saves lives and reduces the number of abandoned or abused dogs.

Happy Hour Overnight

Happy Hour Overnight is a program being worked on to launch soon. Happy Hour Overnight is for potential owners to see more of the dog’s personality and receive more feedback from the animal. It is like a short-term foster stay to also see if you want to adopt them or just spend more time with the dog, the more time out of the shelter means the better their personality will perk

If you would like to contact the shelter to ask questions or just to see what they are about, you can email them at tmas@metroanimalshelter.org or go to their website.