Sunday, January 29, 2012

PETS Project Graduation

Back in December I posted about the difficulties I was having with my current semester of Lad Lake students. The PETS program is designed to have boys from the school for at-risk kids learn about and train shelter dogs with the goal of instilling empathy, teamwork, patience and inspire them to be interested in learning.

The first semester of the school year just ended and I'm pleased at how things really turned around for the program. The boys became very excited to work with the dogs and train them to do new things, and I saw many of the boys become more respectful both towards myself and the other students, and they were enthusiastic about the learning portion of the program.

The last day of the semester the boys gave me notes they'd put together thanking me for allowing them to particpate in the program. One of the boys was grateful that he'd learned about puppy mills and promised never to get a dog from one. One complimented me on being a great trainer and teacher. Another drew pictures of myself and my dog. Getting thanks from the kids I work with really makes my job worthwhile, and I always hope that I've made an impact even in a small way on their lives.

One of the gifts I give to the boys on completion of the semester is a video that I put together from footage shot over the course of the semester of their work with the dogs. The latest video is below.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Winter Camp and Humane Treatment

HAWS Winter Camp ran last week when the kids had a break from school. One of the goals of our education program is to help children develop empathy for all living things. We do this through introducing the concept of caring about the needs of animals and thinking about how people's actions might effect an animal's well-being.

Two of the boys attending were high-functioning autistic and therefore behaved different than the other children. I worried that the other kids in the group would notice this difference and tease them, or at the very least not be tolerant of them.

I didn't need to worry, since all the kids made me very proud. Not only were they tolerant of the two boys, but they went out of their way to be considerate of them and reached out to make sure they were included in every way. I observed kids moving over to make room for the two boys with autism, asking them if they wanted to join in activities when the boys were off to the side, and making sure the boys had extra opportunities to engage with the animals we had out.

Was this a result of our programming? It's hard to say -- most of the kids have been through HAWS camps or other educational programs in the past. I'd like to take at least partial credit for it, but I'd also like to think that our world is becoming more accepting of people who aren't like us.