Volunteers at Holmes County Dog Warden office now walking tall

Volunteers at Holmes County Dog Warden office now walking tall

Holmes County dog warden Jonathan Beam and his staff created a volunteer dog-walking program that not only helps them, but also is beneficial to both the dogs and the volunteers.


Steve Armbrust slides comfortably into the front office door of the Holmes County Dog Warden. Despite not being an employee, everyone at the office knows him, especially the dogs, who have become more than accustomed to seeing him.

Armbrust of Killbuck is one of a handful of volunteers who come into the office to work with the dogs on a regular basis. The volunteers not only walk the dogs, but also groom them, work with them on commands and have them play with the myriad toys at the office.

However, most importantly, they are humans who help the dogs at the office learn how to adjust with dealing with people, which only enhances the chances of helping dog warden Jonathan Beam and his staff find a home for every dog that comes into the facility.

“It’s little steps with the volunteers working with the dogs, but they are steps that make it easier for us to adopt each dog because they learn how to behave better and become more comfortable around people,” deputy dog warden Michael DeWitt said.

Armbrust would attest to that.

“The more time we as volunteers are able to spend with each dog, the more comfortable they get around us.” Armbrust said. “It’s amazing to watch the progress they make from week to week.”

When DeWitt was asked by Beam to head up the volunteer walking program close to two years ago, DeWitt did so eagerly, knowing the value in the program, not just for the dogs, but also for the people who worked with them.

The office began offering orientation classes for volunteers, and the program continues to grow. During the most recent orientation this past spring, DeWitt said they had nine people attend.

During the classes they learn how to work with the dogs, walk them, play with them and observe each dog’s attitude in working with humans. The volunteers are asked to not only work with the leashed dogs, but also evaluate them in their responses to different aspects of each visit.

The dogs are walked in the fenced area behind the office, and the more well-behaved dogs are often walked in the field to the north and west of the facility, giving them a little more room to roam.

Volunteers also enjoy time in the rec room, playing with the dogs and teaching them obedience commands.

The program has paid off, according to DeWitt.

“It has been such a great asset for our dogs,” DeWitt said. “They learn to become more trusting around people.”

Not only is it good for the dogs, but also it is great for the volunteers, many of whom are retired.

Armbrust said when he got news of some health issues, he decided finding ways to be active was important.

Working with the dogs is just that, but more importantly, it is a release mentally as much as it is helping physically.

“I was hesitant at first, but I’ve always loved dogs, and I wanted to find something to do to keep active,” Armbrust said. “But what I have found in volunteering is that it has kept me sharper mentally. It is relaxing, it relieves stress and it puts me in a good place mentally.”

DeWitt said there is something about dogs that can be very therapeutic and relaxing when a dog learns how to behave around people. He said dogs can sense many different emotions and can provide incredible companionship. He noted that during the pandemic there was a large spike in people adopting dogs on a national level, and it hasn’t slowed. He said it is because dogs are able to help people deal with struggles and ease life’s sometimes seemingly unforgiving pressures.

“I know it has a lot of benefits for the dogs, but it has also had many benefits for me too. It’s become a fun part of my week that I look forward to,” Armbrust said.

While the volunteer program is one way of connecting community with the dogs, DeWitt said the dog warden’s office also has reached out to the Holmes County Developmental Disabilities staff, bringing in students to walk the dogs. He said that has created great benefits for everyone involved, and it affords the Board of DD students an opportunity to get out into the community and do something positive and enjoyable.

“That’s been fun to watch that aspect of this develop,” DeWitt said. “It’s a unique opportunity for them to provide a valuable service for us, and I know they really enjoy coming here to walk the dogs and care for them.”

DeWitt said the next orientation classes will take place sometime in June or July, and not only do the volunteers receive the joy of giving back to the community, something Armbrust said was very important to him and many of the other volunteers, but also DeWitt said there are other incentives for volunteers.

He said five hours of service will earn each volunteer a dog warden volunteer T-shirt while 75 hours of volunteer time will allow volunteers to help with any of the adoption events the office might offer. He said eventually they hope to have quarterly pizza parties for the volunteers so they can spend time together rather than taking their respective weekly turns working with the dogs.

DeWitt said anyone interested in joining the orientation class this summer should keep an eye for further information on their website at www.holmescountydogwarden.com.

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