Thursday, July 31, 2014

Conversations with Campers

Lucky 4 Leaf Clover

Last week we held Camp Gone to the Dogs for kids between ages 10 and 14 years.  One group was sitting on the grass with their dogs and I stopped by to chat for a bit.

"Are there such things as 4 leaf clovers?" asked one of the girls.

I told her that there were, but they were pretty rare which is why people considered them lucky.  Then I walked off to check in with another group of kids.

A little while later I walked past the first group.  "She found a 4 leaf clover!" one of the kids excitedly yelled.

"Really?  Show it to me," I said hurrying over. 

"Oh, I threw it away already."

How to Tells the Boys from the Girls

Another amusing conversation happened at this week's camp.  Assistant Educator Megan and I were in with a group of kids who were playing with kittens.  One of the kids asked how we could tell the boys from the girls.  Instead of my standard answer, "Boys have boy parts, and girls have girl parts", I decided to make her think a bit.

"Well, how do you know you're a girl and not a boy?" I asked.

"I have long hair", was the reply.

"Ok, well when babies are first born and they don't have hair, how does the doctor know it's a boy and not a girl?"

The little girl thought, and thought. I could see the wheels spinning in her head and I assumed she had it figured out.

"Well, boys have blue blankets and girls have pink."

Friday, July 25, 2014

Rearranging Our Schedule

I have to admit that creating a schedule for our camp sessions is something that I dread.  We have 40-some kids split up into 5 groups so that they get more one on one time with the animals and so that they can get more out of activities.  Needless to say it gets complicated making sure that each group gets to experience the same things and figure out where each group will do their individual activities in the building without disrupting other campers or the regular business of camp.   Additionally I have to make sure that the kids have a learning experience here at camp since our goal is that they come away from their time at HAWS with respect and responsibility for animals. 

That being said, sometimes my carefully crafted schedule gets disrupted and the counselors are forced to be flexible enough to roll with the changes.  Last week we had one such event when HAWS Mobile Adoption Coordinator, Johanna Schmanski was kind enough to bring her foster kittens in for the kids to meet. 

Summer time at HAWS is what we call "kitten season". It's the time of year when tons of kittens are brought in from all over the county.  Many of these kittens are too young to go up for adoption and are farmed out to foster homes until they're old enough at 8 weeks of age to return and find their new homes.  Some of these kittens are too young even to eat solid food and need to be bottle fed.

Johanna's fosters happened to have been bottle babies, and so it was a great opportunity for the kids to learn about how foster homes care for very young kittens -- feeding them every 3 hours by bottle, helping them to potty by stimulating their bottoms, and how much work it is to care for them.

The kids were enthralled and thrilled when they were given a chance to feed the kittens themselves.  And it was worth the disruption of my carefully planned out schedule.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Conversation with a Camper

The main focus of HAWS Kids 'N Critters Day Camps is to educate children about animal welfare issues, one topic being what it means to be a responsible pet owner.  We have many games and activities that help emphasize such things as doing research before bringing a pet home, ensuring that a new owner has appropriate supplies, providing exercise, grooming and cleaning.

Sometimes, however, the best educational moments are during periods of down-time.  The other day I sat with the kids as they played with a cat and a little girl started a conversation with me about a problem she was having with her parents.  Apparently she wanted to get a kitten and her parents had told her they would purchase kitty litter and food, but that she'd have to figure out a way to provide veterinary care.  She wanted to know if she could get her future kitten spayed or neutered at HAWS for free or for just a small amount of money.

I explained to her that HAWS provides low cost spay and neuter to people who are on government assistance (Social Security, Disability, etc), but that because her parents both have jobs and can afford pet care we couldn't do the same for her.  I also explained that kittens need more vet care than just spay and neuter.  Her kitten would need vaccinations, and may need such things as medicine to get rid of ear mites and intestinal parasites.  HAWS doesn't provide these services to the public, so she'd need to spend money at a vet any way.  Additionally vet care isn't just a one-time visit.  She'd have to spend money every year for a wellness check-up, and if her cat got sick or hurt she might need to take the cat to the vet for care in addition to the annual examination. 

I'm not sure how the topic changed to litter boxes, but the girl indicated that she only planned to clean the box once a week.  I explained that cats are very clean animals, and that they don't like to use dirty litter boxes. 

The little girl didn't get it.  "But why can't I just clean it once a week?" she asked.  I told her that some cats might stop using a litter box if it's dirty and start going potty in other, less desirable places.  She still didn't understand about daily cleanings, and so I asked her if she'd want to use a toilet that never got flushed. 

I'm not sure the girl was convinced.  Typical of many kids her desire to have a kitten to have fun with was stronger than her understanding of the fact that while a pet is fun it's also a responsibility that requires care that isn't always fun.  But I hope I at least planted a seed.