Thursday, August 27, 2009

Famous Daves Refuses to Serve Sheep

One of the most interesting things about working at HAWS is sometimes I never know what I'll find in our animal cages here.

A few days ago our staff were called out to Famous Dave's restaurant in Waukesha to pick up a stray animal. Usually the animals our staff handle are things like dogs, cats, rabbits, an occasional ferret or sometimes even a bird. Occasionally they come across a more unusual species.

Our staff knows animals, and they weren't going to have the wool pulled over their eyes this time -- they know the difference between a dog and a sheep! We don't know how she got there -- that part of Waukesha is anything but rural. But ewe can bet she wasn't there to sample the ribs!

Baaaah-bara is currently residing in a dog kennel here at HAWS while we do the 7-day stray hold. If not claimed she'll be turned over to greener pastures, where she can live out her life in a flock of other sheep blissfully grazing to her hearts desire.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Camp is Over, But Not Forgotten

Camp ended a week ago, and I'd like to be able to say that the activity room is a lot quieter, but that's just not true! HAWS has been under construction since early June -- most of the work has been on the front of the building, but with the addition of new space we are required to put in a new sprinkler system. We've exchanged the sound of kids laughing and yelling with the sound of sawing and pounding.

You might think that now that camp is over I've put it behind me until I need to start planning for the summer of 2010. Actually -- I've already started to plan for 2010! One of the things I did this year was to put together a survey for the parents to fill out. Overall we got some very positive feedback, such as the following:

- My daughter is already planning on attending next year and her younger brother will be old enough, so it is on his calendar as well!
- my daughter loves it. She is a budding vet (or something) and has a great time at camp always!!
- My niece was in town and would have loved to do camp. She is interested in starting a similar camp at their humane society in Virginia.
- My daughter had a really fun time at the camp. I wish I hadn't waited to sign her up so she could have gotten into both weeks. Thanks so much for offering this camp. I will make sure I look into registering earlier.
- very very fun
- my daughter loves animals and she had so much fun - she wants to go back the rest of the week. I wish we had signed up for one of the 5 day camps.
- My daughter loved it. Not one complaint.

Not all the survery results were positive. Some of the parents requested more time with the animals and (suprisingly) more volunteer work cleaning cages. One parent complained about the 1/2 an hour after lunch that we have the kids watch animal related movies (most educational), one said we should have a movie with popcorn, and one requested better movies. One child complained about the outdoor games we play, and one stated he would like more outdoor playtime.

Truly we are not going to be able to please every child and every parent -- but were certainly can (and will) try. One of the comments from a parent was that her son told her that if he was bored or didn't like an activity there was a new one starting within a half an hour so it wasn't so bad. So that tells me that we're on the right track.

The survey results are very important to me. While it's a bit demoralizing to hear that our camp program isn't 100% fantastic, it also gives me very important information on how next year's camp can be better.

And the building addition will be a big factor in making that happen. We will have an additional meeting room so that we can have more children attending camp, but fewer in the same room; and more nooks and crannies. We can have smaller groups of kids interacting with an animal at a time - a better experience for both the children and the animal. And we will definately put more animal interaction into our schedule (currently they interact with animals between 5 and 6 times a day for 15 minutes to 1/2 an hour at a time).

If you have any suggestions I'd love to hear them!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Campers Training Shelter Dogs

One of the camp activities that the older kids enjoy doing is dog training. We put the kids into groups of three, and each group is given a dog to train. Many of the dogs haven't ever learned anything from their previous owners, and many are a challange to work with.

The kids enjoy being able to spend time with a shelter dog, but they also learn that training a dog can be much more difficult than it looks. Some of the dogs truly want to figure out what the kids want, but just can't figure it out. It's a typical case of inter-species failure to communicate.

We don't tell the kids what they have to teach the dogs -- this is camp after all and it's meant to be fun. But we do show them how to teach whatever interests them, and sometimes make suggestions.

This summer HAWS adoptable dogs learned how to sit and lay down (and some learned to calm down in the presence of kids -- an invaluable lesson!), spin, shake, rollover, go through a hula hoop, crawl beneath chairs, and just look so cute that the kids had to give them free treats.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Field Trips

One of the experiences we provide for the kids attending our 5-day camps is the opportunity to go on a field trip and experience animals that they wouldn't encounter at HAWS.

While Wisconsin is known as "The Dairy State", many city and suburban kids haven't ever had a chance to visit a dairy farm. Earlier this summer we visited the Cozy Nook Farm in Waukesha and the kids were able to meet some of the bovine providers of the milk they drink, and the cheese, yogurt and ice-cream they eat. The kids learned what hard work farming is, let calves suckle their fingers, fed hay to some of the cows, and got a hay ride.

Another group of campers went to visit Waterville Farm and learned about caring for horses, got to meet some mares and their foals, and were able to pet some beautiful show horses. They learned about tack and grooming, and each camper was able to brush a horse.

Last weeks group of campers were able to have more of a hand-on experience at Knollwood Farm in Hartland. The kids groomed the horses, put on tack and got a riding lesson. They learned that caring for horses is hard work, and doesn't always smell very nice. But every one said that it was one of their favorite parts of camp.