If you’d like to combine fresh air and exercise with doing a good deed, a series of hikes in West Hollywood might just be for you. Free Animal Doctor, a charitable organisation, has partnered with Airbnb to offer walking tours of Runyon Canyon, where participants help to walk a group of rescue dogs. Some of the dogs are cooped up in a kennel or else in a foster home that doesn’t have time to adequately walk them, and these hikes greatly benefit them.
Runyon Canyon Park is a 160-acre park at the eastern end of the Santa Monica mountains, and the two-hour hikes take place in the mornings twice-weekly. Participants are paired with rescue dogs to hike to the top at Mulholland Drive and then back down again. Along with exercising and socialising the dogs, participants on the walk help to take photos of the dogs to publicise their cases in order to help bring in donations for their’ care and generate adoption interest. Payment for the experience is a donation to help pay for the care of the dogs.
“Runyon Canyon is a bit of an undiscovered gem,” Ryan Boyd, co-founder of Free Animal Doctor tells Lonely Planet. “The park probably has the best views of both the Hollywood Sign and of West Los Angeles. At first, the guests meet the dogs, and we do some bonding and stuff, and then when we get to the top, they get these amazing views. We also feed the dogs snacks at that point, which is fun. Runyon has some challenges and there are no structures and no bathrooms, for example, but this is part of what makes it relatively undiscovered, as opposed to other trails.”
The walks are part of Airbnb Experiences, which guests book through the Airbnb website. Many are purely touristic in nature, but Airbnb is strongly promoting a small number of non-profit based experiences that offer a “social welfare” component. Participants must be able to hike in the sun at a significant incline for about 1.5 miles each way, as half of the journey is uphill. Walkers aged 12 and up can attend and parents may also bring children under two years of age. Participants’ own friendly dogs are welcome to join the group.
According to Ryan Boyd, the rescue dogs react very well to people on the hikes and benefit greatly from them. “We think the key is getting them outside,” he says. “Scared or traumatised dogs tend to react better outside than when indoors. We have three purposes for this trip – exercise, socialise and publicise. Many of these dogs come in somewhat damaged, and by taking them out, walking them and exposing them to lots of different people and other dogs, we have found that they re-socialise quickly. We have had a number of abused dogs that could not be handled come around and become very adoptable, simply through repeated hikes.”