Thursday, October 28, 2010

Creatures of the Sea

Last week I went to Atlanta, Georgia to attend the Association of Pet Dog Trainer's Conference. The conference itself was wonderful -- I learned about some fantastic studies on canine cognition, got some wonderful tips on dog training, and met up with old friends and met new friends.

While dogs are my first love, I'm am fascinated by animals of all kind. I was lucky enough to be able to get to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta the day before the start of the conference. The Georgia Aquarium is the largest in the world with exhibits that contain 8 million gallons of water!

It was a wonderful opportunity to see beluga whales, whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, manta rays, jelly fish and octopus.

Some of the smaller exhibits allowed me to get up close and see things like the lion fish and sea dragon (see the video!)

My favorite exhibits were the petting tanks where visitors have an opportunity to touch some of the sea animals. The highlight of my visit was petting bonnethead sharks and cownose rays.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Patience is a Virtue

I think more than anything else in my life, working with dogs has had the biggest impact on my capacity to be patient. Dogs really can humble you -- once you think you have them figured out, they throw you a curve ball.

And I haven't learned to just be patient when working with dogs -- patience has permeated other aspects of my life. I've learned to empathize when dog owners are experiencing behavior problems, and when they're struggling to teach their own dog something new. I've also learned to be more patient in the non-doggy aspects of day to day living.

The current semester of PETS (Positive Empathy Training for Success) program I'm doing with Lad Lake -- a school for at-risk kids, has been underway for a month now. This is the third semester I've done this program, and this is the youngest group of kids that have participated. They range in age from 11 to 14 years of age.

PETS involves 20 minutes of PowerPoints on training, behavior and other dog related topics, and the last part of the hour has the kids working with shelter dogs. I've had to be more patient with this group of kids because they are younger, and so it's a bit more difficult for them to understand some of the concepts in the presentations. I've had to learn to go a bit slower with them, and to review concepts and terms as we go.

Some of the kids are students at Lad Lake precisely because they lack self control and don't have much in the way of patience. This is very evident with one of the PETS participants in particular. He is an extremely bright kid who loves to participate in discussion. He has very good problem solving ability. But he's a bit bossy with the other boys and interrupts when someone else is talking. He has so much promise if he can just learn some patience.

That's what the PETS program is all about. We still have 3 months to go in this semester, and I hope working with HAWS dogs can make a difference for him.

Monday, October 4, 2010

What Makes a Birthday Happy?

What about spending it at an animal shelter playing games and interacting with animals?

HAWS had our first birthday on Friday for Katie Bies who turned 10 years old. For years we've had inquiries about parties, and we've always had to turn parents down since we really didn't have the available space to do it. With the addition of a second meeting room, we are finally able to offer this as a service.

HAWS birthday party packages are geared for kids between the ages of 6 and 12. For the older kids we have a mystery game in which a Tasmanian Tiger is missing from a zoo. The kids have to find out which one of their assigned characters have committed the tiger kidnapping by looking for clues throughout the shelter. Katie and her friends had a blast playing this game. When we hold parties for younger kids we will play more age appropriate games that will be just as fun.

Katie reads mystery game instructions to her guests.

After which the guests try to gather clues.

You've gotta have cake at a birthday party!

And of course meet some animals!