Vito is a friendly, owner-surrendered dog whose owners didn’t have the resources to take care of her. Like many dogs at Columbia Animal Services, she’s available for “borrowing” through the shelter’s newest volunteer program Slumber Buddies. (Photo by Lauren Hansborough/Carolina News and Reporter)

When a coworker said she wanted to take a dog home for the night, Angel Abbey knew what Columbia Animal Services’ next volunteer program would be. 

Slumber Buddies allows volunteers to take a dog home over the weekend to give the pup a break from shelter life.  The program that started in August has been a success, said Abbey, the shelter’s volunteer coordinator.

“It’s been wonderful because it allows us to get some information on how their in-home behavior would be,” Abbey said. “When they’re in the shelter, we don’t know how they’re going to be.”

Slumber Buddies volunteer Lindsey Hummel said she picks dogs to take home who are more nervous and might have a lower chance of adoption because it can help them calm down and increase their chances adoption later.

“It’s addictive,” Hummel said. “Once you start doing it, I just want to take so many of them home.”

Weekend volunteers gather information about what a specific dog is like. Hummel said potential adopters want to know about the dog’s temperament, personality and in-home habits.

It may be hard for some people to find that perfect match without having those answers

“We aren’t able to answer so many of these questions, and it can deter people from adopting,” Hummel said. 

Slumber Buddies allows the dogs to decompress, Hummel said. Once they’re taken outside the shelter, it’s a “night and day difference.”

“It’s just so rewarding because you absolutely see a difference,” she said. “Even after just 24 hours, they become more playful. They’re happier. They just totally become different dogs.”

Another volunteer, Mike Young, likes to combine Slumber Buddies with another program, Doggie Day Out, which allows volunteers to take dogs out into public for a few hours. 

Young said so many people walk up to see the dog and ask about adoption.

And volunteers often share their doggie experiences on social media, which can increase a dog’s marketability to a potential adopter. 

“Once you get involved on the volunteer side, you realize you can do a bunch of stuff,” Young said. “What is the most fulfilling? And where can you make the biggest difference?”

Abbey said Columbia Animal Services’ social media presence has grown because of the volunteers.

“I couldn’t do it without them,” she said. “… They’re making this program that much better.”

For Hummel, the most rewarding part of being a volunteer is giving back to the animals. 

“I wanted to do something to help and to help these animals get some type of enrichment, because they’re just stuck in kennels all day,” she said.

Alien meets his soon-to-be-adopter Jessica Schumacher at City of Columbia Animal Services. (Photo by Lauren Hansborough/Carolina News and Reporter)

Alien says a loving goodbye to staffers at City of Columbia Animal Services. (Photo by Lauren Hansborough/Carolina News and Reporter)

City of Columbia Animal Services keeps busy on a recent Saturday. (Photo by Logan Harris/Carolina News and Reporter)