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Tag: curriculum

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)

Reading, writing, arithmetic and gun safety

eeagleMuch like McGruff the Crime Dog, Eddie Eagle — aka a National Rifle Association representative in an eagle costume — has been showing up in school assemblies for more than 20 years.

But it appears the NRA mascot and his lessons on gun safety are destined to become mandatory in Virginia – at least in those school districts that choose to offer the curriculum.

The state has approved gun safety classes in elementary schools, and will structure the curriculum with help from the National Rifle Association.

The law allows local school divisions to offer gun-safety education to pupils in kindergarten through fifth grade. While each school board can decide whether to offer it, those that do must use the state curriculum — which will include rules used by the NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program.

Not all parents are thrilled with that.

“I personally don’t think firearm safety has a place in the schools,” Lori Haas, spokeswoman for the Virginia Center for Public Safety whose daughter is a survivor of the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. 

“That’s up to the parents to teach that at home.” she told Fox News

NRA’s Eddie Eagle website says that the program’s goal “isn’t to teach whether guns are good or bad, but rather to promote the protection and safety of children.”

The Eddie Eagle mascot advises children: “If you see a gun: STOP! Don’t Touch. Leave the Area. Tell an Adult.” Eddie Eagle does not promote firearm ownership or use and firearms are never used in the program, the website says.

The website tells schools they can “add excitement to your assemblies with a safety mascot appearance. The use of the Eddie Eagle costume provides an entertaining way to enhance the program.”

The Eddie Eagle safety mascot costume is available for purchase by law enforcement agencies only, for $2,650.

Vet school to cease “terminal surgery labs”

Starting in fall 2010, the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University will no longer use dogs and other healthy, live animals to teach surgical skills.

The college in East Lansing will no longer require “terminal surgery labs” in which animals are killed after being used to practice surgical techniques.

Instead of the controversial labs, the college will use more humane teaching methods, including sophisticated models and animal cadavers — a change that has been initiated at more than half of the 28 other veterinary medical schools in the U.S.

 “We are ecstatic that MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine has made this compassionate change to their curriculum and we hope to work with them in the future to make additional advances such as an ethically sourced cadaver program,” said Mitch Goldsmith, President of MSU Students Promoting Animal Rights (SPAR).

Laura Ducceschi, Director of Animalearn, a national program that provides resources for humane science education, commended MSU for “taking this positive step towards joining the many other prestigious veterinary institutions that have ended terminal surgery labs and replaced them with humane alternatives and shelter medicine programs that benefit students and animals.”

Animalearn, the educational division of the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS), works with educators, students and others to achieve quality humane science education without harmful use of animals.

Both SPAR and Animalearn advocated to end animal use at MSU following revelations of the extent of the university’s use of dogs in Animalearn’s 2009 report, Dying to Learn: Exposing the Supply and Use of Dogs and Cats in Higher Education.