Tongue lolling, tail wagging, Buddy trots down Van Camp Road, about as happy as a shelter dog can get.
He’s knows it’s Tuesday, one of four days that an army of volunteers shows up in the morning to walk each
and every Wood County Humane Society dog.
The effort is led by Connie Donald, who has been walking dogs at the shelter for 18 years, rain or shine
"It’s nourishment for my heart and soul and when I go home, I know I did something worthwhile,"
said Donald on a recent spring walk.
She was honored in March for her volunteer work with a Jefferson Award for outstanding community service.
She is a registered nurse at the University of Toledo Medical Center.
Donald, who is 49, was nominated for the award by some of her UT Medical Center colleagues, including
Esther Fabian, director of health care marketing. She is a former president of the humane society board
and has known Donald for 15 years.
"She is the perfect epitome of someone who gives a lot at work and (it) also applies in her
volunteer life," Fabian said. "The qualities and compassion that make her a great nurse make
her a great volunteer."
Fabian said the dogs seem to "sense the compassionate, gentle vibe that she brings."
Donald’s compassion often leads to taking some of the harder-to-adopt animals, including a cat with
feline immunodeficiency virus, home. She and husband, Doug Black, currently have five pets in their
Bowling Green home.
The dog-walking started when she was living in an apartment and couldn’t have pets.
Now it’s come down to "housework or walking? It’s not really a choice!"
In recent years Donald’s been joined on the Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday walks by up to a dozen
other community members, including a retired Bowling Green State University professor and students.
Everyone moves at a good clip, pausing only to use the plastic bags that hang out of their jeans’ pockets
or let a dog grab a quick drink of water, supplied by another volunteer. The 2-mile walk around one of
the city’s industrial areas is surprisingly peaceful.
"The only time we don’t walk is thunder and lightning but otherwise, oh yeah," Donald said.
Rain? "We’ll take them (the dogs) back, towel them off and get another group."
Snow? "It’s a good leg workout."
Donald sets the schedule for the walkers, trains new volunteers and makes sure every last dog in the
kennel gets time outside.
Interim shelter manager Jamie Fairbanks said the dogs "go crazy" when they see Donald. Not only
does she and the other walkers get them physical exercise, but it prepares them for a new home, he said.
"Walking them four days a week is good for the dogs. It gets them good walks, used to being on the
leash and more adoptable," Fairbanks said.
Donald was flattered to get the Jefferson Award, but always tries to focus the angle on the humane
society, such as getting a YouTube video filmed outside the shelter. She’s become somewhat of an
ambassador for the shelter; there are news stories featuring her and the dogs posted all over the
shelter bulletin board.
It’s the dogs and not the recognition that keeps her coming back.
"The looks on their faces is enough. I feel like I get rewards every time I take them out," she
said. "I just can’t imagine not coming out here."