Routt County Humane Society seeks human musicians to play for canine audience

Volunteer musician Tim Trumble plays guitar and sings for Routt County Humane Society’s dogs.
Cary Rentola

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs loves its dogs and its live music. A new volunteer opportunity with the Routt County Humane Society offers a way to combine both.

The Humane Society is seeking musically-inclined locals to sing and play guitar for the shelter’s dogs on a weekly, volunteer basis.

“It gives us a chance to welcome the community into the shelter, and help make life better for the dogs,” said Cary Rentola, Humane Society development and communications manager.

A 2012 study by Colorado State University’s Lori Kogan examined 117 kenneled dogs and their behavior, measuring their activity levels, vocalization and body shaking. The researchers played classical music and heavy metal for the kenneled dogs and included a period in which no music was played.

Kogan found that classical music led to the dogs barking the least and sleeping the most — signs that the dogs were calm and relaxed — while listening to heavy metal resulted in increased body shaking — an indication that they were nervous and agitated.

While classical was the successful genre in the study, the Humane Society welcomes all kinds of calming music. Rentola noted the dogs also respond positively to children’s lullabies and similarly tranquil pieces.

Volunteer musicians are welcome to play for the dogs any day of the week, from mid-morning until late afternoon.

The live music initiative is one prong of the Humane Society’s enrichment program for its dogs. Other programs include bully stick and Kong days, toys, music played over speakers, and, for the more social dogs, play groups.

The more enrichment the dogs have the better their behavior is, and the better their behavior is, the better they show to the public. And the better they show to the public, the quicker they get adopted, Rentola said.  

To volunteer

To become a musical volunteer, call the Routt County Humane Society at 970-879-7247. 

The live music program initiative increases human interaction with the dogs, as well as opens volunteer opportunities for people who’d like to volunteer but who might not want to or be able to be a dog walker, a common method of volunteering at the Humane Society.

“We’re always on the lookout for more enrichment opportunities, so they’re as comfortable as possible,” Rentola said. “We try to come up with different ways to do that and change up their activities, so they’re not doing the same thing every day.”

Tim Trumble is one of program’s first volunteers.

“I’ve been learning a new instrument — lap steel guitar — and it’s a perfect chance to practice and volunteer,” he wrote in an email.

His experience with volunteering so far?

“So far, so good,” Trumble wrote. “It took (the dogs) a while to settle down, but I think some were really paying attention.”

Anyone interested in volunteering may call the Humane Society at 970-879-7247.

“Our volunteer program pays in sloppy kisses and tail wags,” Rentola said.

Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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