On a rainy Wednesday, Colts offensive linemen Anthony Castonzo, Joe Haeg, and Jack Mewhort showed up at the Humane Society of Indianapolis to spread some sunshine.
But, as usual, it was the animals that brightened their day.
“I love it here,” said Castonzo. “I just love dogs. You think about how much joy dogs bring to people, you might as well give them a little bit too.”
“I don’t think anyone has ever complained about playing with puppies or any other sort of dog,” said Haeg.
“They’re all unique and they all have their own personalities and their stories and their backgrounds. You just hope that they all find their forever home as soon as possible,” said Mewhort. “They deserve good homes.”
And they’re finding good homes faster than ever, with an average stay of just 14 days this year, down from 45 days a few years ago.
Jeremy VanAndel, Chief Development Officer at Indy Humane, says greater awareness has helped bring that number down.
“We always have great pets available for adoption. But it’s true that some people don’t know we’re here or don’t know that something like 25 percent of all shelter pets are purebred or that we do have different options and ages and all kinds of behavior dispositions available,” he said. “Whatever type of pet you’re looking for, we almost definitely have it.”
And having the Colts players visit helps them in many ways.
“It’s great for everybody here. Staff and volunteers love having that interaction, getting to see members of the community come out and support the organization,” he said. “But it’s great for the pets too, because they get this great burst of excitement and a lot of playtime, a lot of extra attention. And then the organization gets the awareness.”
As the owner of a rescue dog, Charles, Castonzo has a real appreciation for the transformation that takes place when an animal is adopted, along with the relationship that ensues.
“At first, we didn’t really get along. He didn’t really like me. I’m not sure if he had a bad male presence in his past, but one time when it was just me and him home for the weekend and I had to watch him for the first time, we bonded. It was the greatest thing ever. And now, we’re inseparable.”
For these Colts players and dog lovers, lending their celebrity to animals in need is an ideal way to give back.
“It’s a nice little break from our stressful workload. It’s great to just come out here and have a great time with the dogs. They spread happiness naturally. And it’s fun to be around that,” Haeg said.
Along with spending time with the animals and touring the facility, Haeg got hands-on and helped bathe one of the dogs, Darwin – and got a bit of a bath himself.
“He definitely shook off a couple times on me,” he laughed.
Haeg went home smelling of wet dog. And they all went home covered in puppy kisses.
But it’s the heartwarming stories that will stay with them. Like the one VanAndel told about the dog that had been there for a year just waiting for the perfect home – and finally found it.
“When we’re able to adopt out those pets and see that forever connection be made, it makes all of that work seem so worthwhile.”
To donate, adopt, or volunteer with Indy Humane, visit: http://indyhumane.org/get_involved.