When Cheryl Wallace steps inside the Town and Country Humane Society in Papillion, Nebraska, she is greeted with the barks, sharp yelps and whimpers coming from dogs of all sizes.
While animal shelters strive to make living conditions as safe and loving as possible for animals waiting for a home, the crowded environment of living in close proximity to other dogs is stressful.
When Wallace arrives to volunteer, she hopes to reduce the stress the dogs feel by playing soothing, classical music on her cello.
As she tunes her instrument and begins to warm up, curious eyes look her way.
Wallace chooses music that is low and slow, allowing the rich, mellow voice of the cello to resonate inside the shelter that is typically filled with chaotic barking.
Puppies close their eyes and nap, older dogs lay down and relax while Wallace serenades her furry audience.
“Now, if you were playing in a concert hall and your audience went to sleep you might be insulted, but for me, that is a high compliment,” Wallace told KETV.
A cellist performs at a dog shelter to calm its anxious residents. https://t.co/gnjiSlKE5q
— KTVZ NewsChannel 21 (@KTVZ) April 17, 2019
In her experience, Wallace has seen the power of music have a radical effect on some of the most desperate, fearful animals in the shelter.
“While playing my cello for dogs, I have seen feral dogs’ behavioral changes,” she wrote on her website. “One slowly revealed himself for the first time, coming out of his hiding place, and another allowed a caregiver to stroke the length of his body for the first time.”
Craig DenHerder, director of operations at the Town and Country Humane Society in Papillion, believes the music is a positive influence on the dogs.
“It seems to be helping them, today they were about half asleep in the kennels,” DenHerder said.
Dr. Mike Rukstalis, Papillion Animal Hospital owner and veterinarian, said that classical music is linked to calmer, more relaxed behavior in animals living in a stressful shelter or animal rescue environment.
“There are some studies that have shown that playing music — and specifically classical music — can actually calm down animals and lower that stress response to an environment like a shelter or a rescue,” Rukstalis said.
Wallace knows there are other musicians out there who have a love for animals, and is hopeful her story will inspire others to volunteer to perform in their local shelters, too.
“It’s up to us to speak for them,” she said.
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