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Tag: kids

In this program, kids read to shelter dogs to help them (the dogs) become more confident

bookbuddies1

Programs in which kids read to dogs are nothing new, but the Humane Society of Missouri is putting a new twist on the idea — having children read to shelter dogs to boost the dog’s confidence, as opposed to their own.

In the Shelter Buddies Reading Program, young volunteers — from ages 5-16 — read to shy and withdrawn shelter dogs, helping them grow comfortable with visitors.

As a result, those shy dogs become less likely to cower in the back of their glass-enclosed kennels and more likely to get adopted.

“We saw more and more rescue animals that were shy, fearful, and stressed out in the shelter environment,” JoEllyn Klepacki, the society’s assistant director of education told Today.com. “Unfortunately, these dogs are less likely to get adopted, since they tend to hang back instead of engage when potential adoptees come through.”

bookbuddiesWhile it’s aimed at primarily at helping dogs, the program is benefiting the volunteers as well.

In addition to helping them hone their reading skills, they learn about dogs, and their body language, and how to draw them out of their shells — all with the help of a good book and some treats.

The volunteers go through training sessions (with a parent) to learn how to interact with dogs, and the shelter has a library of about 100 donated books the children can read from, though many choose to bring their own.

Not a whole lot of staff supervision is required because the dogs remain in their enclosures — likely for liability and safety reasons — and one parent is required to accompany each child when they come to read.

Even though physical contact is limited, Klepacki believes the program is making a difference.

“These were dogs that before were hiding in the backs of the rooms with their tails tucked. You can see the connection — you can see them responding to those kids.”

Klepacki thinks other shelters could start a similar program at little expense.

“For next to no cost, the payoff is immeasurable.”

(Photos courtesy of the Humane Society of Missouri)

Dear Isaac, Please do not ride the dog

We’re not real big on stating the obvious, but there are times it needs to be stated, especially when it comes to children and dogs.

Case in point:  today’s “Dear Abby” column, in which a reader relates how a 9-year-old visitor to his home climbed aboard his Labrador retriever, possibly causing her permanent injuries.

“Isaac,” the visiting child, who apparently had little experience with canines, was playing with Layla, the retriever, when the homeowner heard him say, “Look, I’m riding your dog!”

“I immediately intervened, but I was too late,” the letter writer said. “A day or so later, Layla was unable to descend our stairway and was clearly in pain. She has been on pain medication for three weeks and is growing progressively worse. The next step is to get X-rays and/or an MRI to see if she has a spinal injury, and then determine her treatment. It’s possible the damage is irreversible.”

The letter writer wasn’t seeking veterinary advice, but wondering how to tell Isaac and his parents about the harm he caused, and keep him from doing it again, without placing “undue guilt on a 9-year-old boy.”

Abby responded to “Heartbroken in New York” this way:

“Children are not mind-readers. If you don’t tell them when they make a mistake, they won’t realize they have made one. Contact Isaac’s parents and explain what happened. If your dog needs treatment, they should be responsible for whatever damage their son did.”

I — though  nobody asked — would add only two things to that. First, that any guilt Isaac might feel on learning what he had done isn’t exactly “undue.” Second, that when your dog is meeting someone new — especially a child — you should be in the room, watching and, if necessary, teaching. It’s very easy for a dog owner to assume everyone knows how to behave around dogs, but it’s also very wrong.

Riding a dog, no matter how big he or she is, no matter what the Internet might tell you — and the photo above is just  one example of some incredibly irresponsible online “expertise” — should simply never be done. Period.

(Photo: Taken from wikiHow.com’s article on “how to ride a dog”)

(Postscript: The day after this article appeared on ohmidog!, the wikiHow article on “how to ride a dog” was taken down.) 

 

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)

Another case of kids torturing dog in city

Another dog, tortured by children, has ended up at Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter —  this once so emaciated it appears that the abuse came after a long period of neglect.

TJ was brought into BARCS by a citizen who found him being tortured by children who had tied string around his neck and were dragging him down the street. The witness, according to BARCS staff, stopped the abuse and brought the dog — subsequently named TJ — to BARCS.

TJ is a male whippet/terrier mix, about two years old. He weighed in at only 13 pounds.

You can see more of TJ, and the kind of comments his case has led to on the Facebook page of Helene Scharf, who is associated with Charlietotherescue.org, which helps find foster care for dogs in need, and helps transport them to new locations.

TJ, like Jellybelly, who we showed you last week will likely be taken in by a rescue organization.

Gabriel the therapy Weimaraner

Gabriel, a Weimaraner who helped thousands of people in his ten years as a therapy dog, passed away recently in Arizona.

Since his death, the Arizona Republic reports, his owners have received about 400 e-mails, stacks of cards, floral arrangements and 1,000 new followers on Twitter.

The responses came within a day of the news that a second bout of cancer had ended his life, at age 11.

Gabriel inspired the founding of Gabriel’s Angels, a non-profit organization that today has 150 dogs and their human partners providing help to kids in Phoenix and Tucson.

“If it wasn’t for him, there wouldn’t be a Gabriel’s Angels,” says Pam Gaber, who adopted Gabriel on Jan. 1, 1999, from a Gilbert family.

Gaber was volunteering at Crisis Nursery in Phoenix, an agency dedicated to stopping child abuse and neglect. Children were so entertained by stories of her dog’s antics, she decided he should visit with her.

The pup made his first appearance there dressed as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

“If he had acted like a typical Weimaraner, which would have been, ‘I ain’t doing that,’ that would have been the end of it,” Gaber says. “But he walked in like, ‘Here I am!’ And because of that, Gabe started a revolution of therapy dogs helping kids.”

Gabriel’s Angels was founded in May 2000. Certified owner-pet teams (including one cat) began volunteering with Pam and Gabe. Now the agency each year helps about 13,000 kids through age 18 in more than 100 facilities, including shelters, schools, treatment centers and recreation programs.

The dog answered to English, Spanish and sign language. But it was his gentle ways the kids responded to most, learning from him and Gaber how to be gentle in return.

“Kids who were normally angry were loving and soft and kind with Gabe,” Gaber says. “He went to every single kid and said, ‘You rock. You’re a great kid.’ And the wall came down.”

In January, four months after the cancer returned, Gabriel retired as a therapy dog. Unwilling to let him suffer, Pam and Michael Gaber called a veterinarian, who came to their house on May 17 to euthanize him.

What would God want with a dead dog?

TV legend Art Linkletter died this week at 97.

A Canadian immigrant, Linkletter was an orphan, adopted by “a one-legged preacher.” He left home at 17 and bummed around America as a hobo —”a great way to see this great country,” he noted.

He went on to become one of the most famous voices on radio in the 1930s, successfully making the transition to television in the 1950s. As Stephen Moore noted in this week’s Wall Street Journal, the most enduring of his hit TV shows was “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”

One of Linkletter’s personal favorites was the comment of a 7-year-old boy whose dog had recently died.

“Don’t be sad because your dog is up in heaven with God,” Linkletter said, attempting to appease the youngster.

“Mr. Linkletter,” the boy responded, “what would God want with a dead dog?”

10-year-olds suspected in dogs beating death

Baltimore police are searching for three boys — believed to be ages 10 to 12 — who were seen beating a young pit bull to death at Carroll Park golf course Saturday.

And if that’s not a disturbing enough new chapter in Baltimore’s continuing saga of animal abuse, consider this: According to a Baltimore Sun report, Animal Control officers didn’t arrive at the golf course until more than five hours after the incident was reported to police.

A golf course maintenance worker, Rob Whiderman, saw the youths beating the puppy with a tree branch at the municipal golf course in Southwest Baltimore.

Screaming at them to stop, he drove his golf court to where they were, chased them to the railroad tracks and lost them.

He said he called police, who notified animal control, but they didn’t arrive until about 5:30 p.m., five hours after he called.

“It looked like every bone was broken in its body,” Whiderman told WJZ. “It looks like it broke its back, legs.  We tried to pick it up and nothing was attached.  It was like he didn’t have bones.  Like jelly.”

Whiderman said the youths were between 10 and 12 years old.  Police later found a red-and-white-striped polo shirt, a tree branch and a cell phone that might have been dropped by one of the youths.

But between the two agencies, the police department and animal control, there seemed to be little urgency in responding to the call of an animal being tortured, and even less once the dog had died.

Whiderman said he returned to the golf course Sunday morning and found the dead dog still lying in the woods. He called police again, who responded and wrote a report.

The police report confirms that animal control did not remove the dead puppy when they arrived Saturday afternoon, the Sun reported.