Monday, March 19, 2012

March Madness in WI

This has been the weirdest Wisconsin weather in March I can ever remember. I've lived here my entire life and I never thought that I'd have the windows open, be comfortable wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and be too warm hiking in the middle of March unless I were to move somewhere south.

I think the weather this month has taken a lot of people by surprise, and many haven't adjusted quite yet to thinking in terms of summer.

Yesterday I went grocery shopping and as I was loading groceries into my car I heard a dog barking. As I always do, I looked around to see where the barking was coming from. I was horrified when I located the vehicle the next aisle over and saw that the windows were barely cracked. It was 75 degrees out, not a cloud in the sky, and the SUV was a dark blue color. It was the kind of situation that could kill a dog if left enclosed too long.

I went to the customer service desk of the store and reported the situation. They paged the owner of the vehicle, and I went back out to see if anyone came to get the dog out of it's automotive oven. 5 minutes later the dog was still in the car, and the owner wasn't in sight. So I called the police. The dispatcher promised to send an officer over.

It took 15 minutes for the officer to arrive. He took down the plate number, and the VIN number and asked me a few questions, and then told me I could leave. By the time I left the parking lot it had been a half an hour and the owners still hadn't shown up. The police officer was still by the SUV when I left, and I'm not sure what happened after that.

I have no doubt the owners loved their little dog. It appeared to be well groomed, and they thought enough to want to give it a car ride. But they weren't thinking about the fact that in 75 degree weather an enclosed car can quickly reach 100 degrees. And I'm sure they didn't consider that once they completed their shopping they may have returned to find a dead dog.

It might be March, but with the temperatures behaving as though it's June we need to think summer and how that impacts our pets.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Listening Goes Both Ways

When I first started out in humane education I always worried about what kind of a lesson or activity I could prepare for the groups of kids I interacted with. My assumption was that what I presented to the kids was the most important part of my visit since they'd be learning something about the treatment of animals.

I've since come to realize that the lesson is only one part of what the kids get out of my visits. Most of my visits include an animal guest. I usually do the activity with the kids first since once the animal is out they really don't have any interest in interacting with me -- and who can blame them!

Once the animal comes out I stop talking as much and the kids take that opportunity to talk to me. I hear about animals they have at home, and animals they've met at the homes of relatives. Some kids have stories about wild animals they've encountered -- some they've rescued by bringing to HAWS. Occasionally I'll hear stories about animal abuse the kids have witnessed -- either by other kids, or worse, from adults in their lives.

I've come to realize that listening on my end is just as important as wanting the kids to listen to me. Kids are desperate to be heard and be made to feel that their thoughts and comments are important. Expressing their experiences and feelings are an important part of the learning process, and making them feel as though their conversation about animals is being heard will have a huge impact on how they regard animals in the future.