‘Waggin Tails Trail’ a labor of love for Linton’s Rick West
By Patti Danner
Sometimes a piece of land calls your heart, not stopping until its voice is heard and the land is utilized as it sees fit.
Such was the case with an eight-acre undeveloped parcel adjacent to the Greene County Humane Society (GCHS) in Linton, Indiana.
Last September, full-time Humane Society employee Rick West, an avid outdoorsman and lover of all things four-legged, bloodhound, Basset hound or beagle, heard the call in his heart loud and clear.
“I was just looking at what was there and I saw some real potential for the land,” he said. “And I wanted to give the dogs at the shelter a break, a place where hound and human can relax and enjoy a natural setting. I wanted potential adopters to be able to see another side of the dog, a side that wasn’t confined to a cage.”
After West was given the green light by GCHS board members, he rolled up his sleeves and went to work, diving right in and beginning to clear the overgrowth and planning the trails that his practiced eye could spot through the thick brush. He also began to clear underbrush adjacent to the road and identify areas that will need further work, including the construction of several footbridges over old creek beds and areas to provide a serene view of the nearby pond.
He spent countless hours on the parcel, removing a decades-old metal fence and listening to the land as it whispered the natural direction each trail should take. Other than a gas-powered weedeater, West used only hand tools to complete the work.
“I wanted the pioneer spirit left intact as much as possible,” he explained.
West installed several benches along the trails, each with a view of a nearby pond, a large gazebo situated in a serene glade with a view of the pond and handpainted birdhouses as trail markers, eschewing printed signs found on other public trails.
“Instead of boring signs telling people which way to go, these serve more than just that purpose, they also offer whimsical lodging for birds and hopefully a more fun way for visitors to find their way around,” he said with a grin.
After toiling single-handedly for months on the project, West was assisted for one week by a work crew of low-risk inmates from the nearby Wabash Valley Correctional Institution and was assisted installing the benches by GCHS Board President Kegan Inman.
“Rick has single- handedly made an impact on our adoptions by adding the trail,” Inman said. “The trail project has been a game- changer for our adoptions. It is one thing to meet an animal inside a kennel in a noisy building. It is completely different when you get to meet them in an environment that would simulate something more natural to them. Almost every family that takes a dog on the trail ends up taking it home.
Rick is an amazing individual with drive and dedication that is unprecedented to anyone else that I have ever met. He does everything that he does for the shelter without ever losing his bright and cheery attitude.”
The trail system is open to the public, offering a natural and scenic place to bring their dogs. All dogs must be on a leash and owners are required to clean up any “deposits” left by their canine friends.
West gave the trails a trial run with two of his own Basset hounds, Blue and Dayzee.
“ They were a constant source of motivation and constructive criticism,” he commented.
GCHS held their annual “Bark or Treat” event on the trails in September 2019, which was enjoyed by canines and humans alike.
Today, the trails offer prospective adopters a place to find out how a shelter dog behaves beyond the shelter environment, offering an outdoor adventure on both ends of the leash.
“That’s the best thing about the trails,” West said. “Seeing a family go out and walk a dog on the trail, spend some quiet time at the gazebo then walk in and advise the staff they wanted to adopt. That makes all of the work worth it.”
For West, the land beckoned and he listened. As a result, many of the shelter’s dogs have found forever homes. We should all be so lucky.
The Greene County Humane Society gratefully accepts donations on their website at www.greenecountyhumanesociety.org. Visitors may also learn more about Waggin’ Tails Trail as well as view photos.