Credit: Kiki Yablon

Walking dogs at Chicago Animal Care and Control

2741 S. Western

As the New York Times reported late last year, researchers at the University of Missouri recently found that people who walked with dogs exercised more consistently and got fitter faster than people who walked with people. Why? The humans tended to work together to find excuses not to exercise.

Don’t have a dog? No problem—there are hundreds in shelters around the city who could desperately use a spin around the block. And the ones housed at Chicago Animal Care and Control, aka the pound, get out only if and when volunteers come in to walk them. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the staff to be able to walk the dogs, in addition to clean, care for, and feed,” says CACC commissioner Cherie Travis, “so walking is a volunteer role.”

Indoors the pound lacks the niceties of better-funded facilities like PAWS Chicago (which pulls most of its dogs and cats from here), but what it does have is a huge, grassy surprise of a backyard for dog walking. Recently my fellow volunteer Barb Willard, a DePaul prof by day, decided to wear a pedometer for her four-hour shift. She reports: “I racked up nine miles of walking, burned just under 1,000 calories, and walked 14,282 steps. … If you walk a dog around the perimeter of the fenced area, you walk roughly a quarter mile, so the laps add up. Who knew our sweet CACC dogs could be personal trainers?”

Not a dog person? Willard adds: “Our sweet kitties would probably be best suited to help with yoga.” To volunteer at CACC, start by filling out the application at; be forewarned that under city hiring laws you’ll need to be fingerprinted.