golden retriever young dog in green grass outdoorSuzanne Lawler, WMAZ

It’s rare in life where you can scoop up something that’s absolutely free.

Georgia state parks are working with veterinarians to encourage you to take a walk. But there is a catch to this doggone good deal.

Veterinarian Vernard Hodges, his son VJ, and their dog Alexis decided to tackle High Falls State Park. And why not?

It didn’t cost them a dime.

“With the Georgia Veterinary Association and the Parks teaming up, I think we just need to get the word out,” Hodges said.

The word is that you can chomp up a pet perk. Just ask your vet for a dog walking prescription. That way, you won’t have to plunk down the $5 parking fee.

Alyson Snipes is a ranger with High Falls and she says folks pick up the brochure and can’t really digest it.

“A lot of people think it’s a crazy concept to get a prescription for a walk,” she explained. “The only requirement is to keep your dog on a leash and we do ask that you clean up after him.”

Hodges also likes this whole thing because, much like humans, he has to hound his clients about pet obesity.

“It’s estimated 30-50 percent of all dogs are obese”, he said.

So a little paw time can help and can be more rigorous than a game of catch in the yard.

The Centers for Disease Control actually did a study about this eight years ago, and they figured out of all the folks that own a dog, about 80 percent of the population walks that dog at least once a day, so you might think of this as more of a prescription for you.”

“Even with me, I try to work out, but I could feel the cardiovascular benefits of up and down these rocks because it’s not our normal steps,” Hodges admitted.

Chalk it up to another example of man’s best friend helping out.

“I’ve emailed it out to all my clients and say if you want to go to the state parks, I’d be happy to write you a prescription, and you and the dog can enjoy the great outdoors,” Hodges said with a grin.

This program is sponsored by Purina and the Georgia Veterinary Association, so chances are it’s going to stick around.

We bring this up because the parks used to have a prescription program just for the humans. That program is no longer available, so you have to travel with your pet.

And remember, this is only good at Georgia state parks, not national ones.

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