Sunday, June 19, 2011

Unscheduled Lessons

It's that time of year at HAWS -- summer camp time. Last year we held three sessions of "Camp Gone to the Dogs" and it was overwhelmingly successful. This year we added another two weeks and they were the first sessions to fill.

I love this specialty camp because it allows me to share my passion and knowledge of dogs. The kids not only get to spend time with their shelter dog for the week, but they learn about training, socialization, and puppy mills -- among other things.

In my over seven years as a humane educator I've come to realize that sometimes the best lessons are those that aren't planned, and of course this was the case during last weeks camp.

On Tuesday one of the dogs started limping, and by Wednesday Ashland was having difficulty getting up. The kids were extremely concerned about her, but felt better when we assured them our vet was going to check her out.

Ashland was diagnosed with Lyme's Disease and treatment was started immediately. However I had to break it to her three campers that they might not get to work with her for the rest of the week. They were really good sports about it and very understanding. Fortunately the antibiotics were fast acting and Ashland was feeling well enough on Thursday that the kids could spend time with her -- even though they had to limit her activity.

The good feeling I was having when that that problem was resolved was short-lived, however. Chops the cocker spaniel was scheduled to go to his new adoptive home on Saturday, but there was a lump on his chest that needed to be removed. I met with his campers and explained the situation and asked if they would mind if Chops had the surgery and they were given a different dog to work with -- possibly for the rest of camp. I was very proud of them -- they unhesitatingly agreed that Chops should have the tumor removed (it was benign), and worked with another dog without complaining. And later that day begged to go see him in recovery so they knew he was ok. Chops was feeling well enough by Friday morning that they were able to get him back.

The campers learned that when working with animals things don't always go as planned, and that the animal's welfare takes priority over everything else. I'd say the first week of camp this year was a success!

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