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Ace goes to school for a lesson in love

Ace made a big impression on pre-k and kindergarten students at Baltimore’s Lakewood Elementary School yesterday, dazzling them with tricks, soaking up their pats and hugs and swearing in two classrooms whose students took the “Oath of Kindness,” a pledge to be kind to animals.

How this latest stop in our continuing travels came to pass was actually pretty simple, and amazingly bureaucracy-free.

A teacher friend asked if we’d visit. We said yes. She got the necessary clearances and, before you know it, a 130-pound Rottweiler-Akita-chow-pit bull mix was being snuggled, stroked and hugged by a bunch of children half his size.

Karma Dogs, the therapy dog organization of which Ace is a member, came up with two more volunteers who visited the school along with Ace and me –  Janet Shepherd and her dog Tami, and Kathryn Corrigan and her dog Puddy.

Together, we covered six classrooms in just over an hour, administering the oath, passing along some basic dog safety tips and stressing the importance of treating animals kindly.

Karma Dogs developed the ”Oath of Kindness” after the death of Phoenix, a pit bull puppy who was set on fire by Baltimore teenagers in the summer of 2009 — not the first, or last, case of its type in the city.

The oath reads: “I … pledge always to be kind to animals. I promise never to hurt an animal, be it dog or cat, furry or fat. I promise to tell my friends to be kind to animals and if I see an animal that is being hurt I will tell an adult right away. Scaly or slimy, feathered or blue, to this promise I will be true.”

After reciting the pledge, the children receive a certificate,which is “pawtographed” by the dog, in this case, Ace. The hope is that children who have openly declared they will not be violent towards animals will remember that, tell their friends and inform adults when they see an animal being taunted or abused.

Of the students Ace and I appeared before, about a dozen raised their hands when I asked who was afraid of dogs. But only one declined a chance to pet Ace. Several more had some trepidations, but those seemed to melt away as they watched the other children interact with him.

They were eager to ask questions, and talk about their own pets. One girl spent three minutes talking about her Chihuahua, which she said had the same name she did. Not until the end of her dissertation did she reveal that her dog was a stuffed toy.

I cautioned them against  approaching stray dogs, told them to always to ask the owner before approaching a dog, showed them how to let dogs sniff their hands as an introduction and encouraged them to treat dogs as they’d like to be treated — calmly, kindly and lovingly.

Ace made an impression on the children in several ways, I think –through his size alone, his gentleness and his back story: a stray adopted from the shelter, like most of the other Karma Dogs, who went on to try and help humans.

He also made an impression with his pawprint, stamped on each of the certificates that was handed out.

The teacher behind the event (who also took these photos) was Marite Edwards, a longtime friend of Ace’s. When she took the idea to her principal, she learned that the school and district were looking at ways to add dog safety and kindness to animals to the curriculum.

That another case of animal abuse surfaced in Baltimore over the weekend — that of a cat set on fire by two teenagers — confirmed just how much those lessons are needed.

You can find more information about Karma Dogs at its website.

(Photos by Marite Edwards)

Comments

Comment from Kolchak Puggle
Time February 2, 2011 at 5:41 pm

What a wonderful program. PAWS UP! to you and Ace!

Comment from Eighteenpaws
Time February 2, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Absolutely touching. Please find the time to do more of this, regardless of city, as I am certain that it cements a permanent animal-friendly impression on these young minds. Ace is the perfect teacher, and please know that you two offer something that few others can. Loved the photos!!

Comment from Pat DeWald
Time February 3, 2011 at 9:54 am

Tears in my eyes over this one. You and Ace do great work.

Comment from Laura H
Time February 3, 2011 at 10:07 am

beautiful story. Ace is a wonderful dog

Comment from Aleksandra
Time February 3, 2011 at 10:28 am

Thanks for making my day. After all of the blogs about the sled dog fiasco in BC, I needed a good story about people and dogs working to turn around negative or callous attitudes toward animals.
Your loyal fan,
Aleksandra (plus wonderdogs Lollie and Chick)
follow our foster: loveandaleash.wordpress.com

Comment from Kathy G.
Time February 4, 2011 at 10:20 am

What a wonderfully happy story…thanks Ace (& John) for the great work.

Comment from boardmarks
Time June 21, 2011 at 6:18 am

Really a good post.

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