MINNEAPOLIS – Does it really count as working on your day off when you get to play with puppies?
Cam Bynum and D.J. Wonnum certainly didn't think so. The Vikings teammates spent last Tuesday afternoon cuddling, playing – and posing – with a number of pups looking for new homes through Secondhand Hounds.
They joined Vikings staff as volunteers at People & Pets Together's new space, Chuck & Don's Pet Wellness Center, which is being developed into a much larger pet food shelf than the organization previously operated.
An income-based program, People & Pets Together serves all of Minneapolis on a regular basis. It also delivers pet food to a number of food shelves throughout the greater Twin Cities area and occasionally to more rural communities.
"When we get donations, we'll be able to accept so much more food than you'd ever expect because we have a warehouse now," said People & Pets Together Program Director Kate Meador. "Just a couple of months ago, we rejected 47 pallets of food because we didn't have space to store it. Now we have room to accept that. Which just means that more families will get some support toward keeping their pets and working through whatever financial or medical issue that they're dealing with.
"It's the greatest opportunity. It's a dream come true. And having the Vikings here is sort of the cherry on top," Meador added. "We work together to make good things happen for people."
Vikings players DE D.J. Wonnum and S Camryn Bynum joined Secondhand Hounds, a local animal shelter, as volunteers at Chuck & Don's Pet Wellness Center, which is being developed into a larger pet food shelf.
Bynum connected with multiple Secondhand Hounds foster dogs, including Filbert, an 8-week-old Labradoodle born with a cleft palate; and Pudgy, a Pitbull mix rescued from Kentucky. Bynum also showed extra love to Ven, an elderly Chihuahua.
"I'm a dog person, so anything to get my dog fix," Bynum laughed. "My dog's back at home, thousands of miles away from me, so anything to come see some puppies and help the puppies get adopted, at the end of the day. That's the goal. I wanted to come and help that [effort] any way that I can."
Bynum grew up with multiple dogs (in addition to turtles, birds and other pets) in his Southern California home.
"Anything animal-related, my family's doing it. We love it," he smiled.
"Every single one I pet, I connect with," Bynum said. "I'm terrible when it comes to my emotional attachment to dogs. I pet them for five minutes, and I fall in love. It's tough."
Wonnum also is a dog-lover, having last year adopted Simba, an American bulldog. He also has a 13-year-old pup, Diego, who lives with his parents back home in Georgia.
"I love dogs; I always grew up with them," Wonnum said. "Being able to help find these dogs a new home is an amazing opportunity."
The 6-foot-5 defensive end gravitated toward Franny, an 11-week English bulldog born with Spina Bifida.
"I fell in love with [her] at first sight," Wonnum said with a smile.
He and Bynum posed for photos with the foster dogs, including Guinevere, a timid, 3-legged pup who needed a little coaxing from Wonnum before warming up to the camera.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic when much of the world shut down and countless people transitioned to remote work environments, pet shelters around the country saw a large increase in adoptions.
But over the past several months, numerous families have opted to re-surrender their adopted pets as they've moved back into a "typical" flow of life.
"Unfortunately, a lot of rescue pets come with issues. And changes, like having their owners leave for hours at a time, cause anxiety and stress in pets, as they do in a family," Meador explained, adding that people often underestimate the time and energy needed to support a new animal in the home. "It can take months to sort of work through having separation anxiety, those kinds of things. We're seeing pets be returned at a really, really high rate, which is so unfortunate and is a real problem.
"There's a two-fold thing going on here," Meador continued. "The pet food shelf and the services we're going to offer people so they maintain their pets means fewer pets surrendered from that angle of things. And then in turn, hopefully people who are adopting and then returning will decrease as time goes on, too, through education and service delivery."
Bynum and Wonnum encouraged anyone considering pet adoption to do adequate research before diving in head-first.
But if the situation is right, Bynum noted, you won't regret adding a dog to your home.
"I love their loyalty, how playful they are. You come home to a dog, they're always happy. Whether you have a good or bad day, your dog is always going to be happy to see you. Just that energy coming from our dog, 24-7, that's the best thing ever to me.
"I like dogs more than some of my friends. Sorry to my friends," Bynum added, laughing. "I think a dog is the best thing anyone can add to their life."
Note from Secondhand Hounds:
All of the animals discussed above are in their foster homes already and will be posted on our website when they are ready for adoption applications. Each animal has its own adoption journey, so we can't say who will be adoptable when or even if at all. Be sure to watch our website and apply when you see someone that you're interested in as officially available. Here's to finding a new forever friend!