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story.lead_photo.caption Class: Liz Slater and Angelica Wurth talk to children at the Boys and Girls Club of El Dorado about responsible pet ownership. Michael Shine/News-Times

Volunteers from the Union County Animal Protection Society visited the Boys and Girls Club of El Dorado yesterday to teach children there about responsible pet ownership.

“I learned to never make direct eye contact with a dog,” said Kennedi Flowers, an 11-year-old Washington Middle School student.

Kennedi has two dogs of her own, Nova and Bruno, so she was the perfect candidate for yesterday’s class.

At yesterday’s lesson, UCAPS volunteers Liz Slater and Angelica Wurth, accompanied by their furry friend Curley the dog, talked to the children in attendance about how to treat animals from family pets to strays on the street.

“I think that we busted a bunch of myths – like cats and dogs hate each other, and you can’t have a dog and a cat [together],” Wurth said.

Wurth said she and Slater covered topics like the needs of different pets (what a dog might need that a cat wouldn’t and vice versa); the importance of spaying and neutering one’s pets and the consequences of not doing so; approaching strange dogs and precautions one should take; and others.

“We also told them that if there’s a stray dog … you’re like a tree. You don’t move until the dog goes away on it’s own; running is like the worst thing you can do,” she said. “Standing still, letting the dog sniff you and then letting it go on its way if it’s a stray is the best thing to do. I think that’s one of the things they got out of it.”

The class is one of the first in an ongoing effort to increase education around animal-care in Union County. UCAPS is currently working to build an adoption center where they intend to provide more educational opportunities and host more outreach events.

“What we’re trying to affect is their thinking around puppies and kittens, getting their dogs fixed, because that’s part of our priority, part of our mission,” Wurth said. “I feel we did accomplish our goal [today].”

Shaneque Jamerson, education coordinator for BGCE, said with this week’s summer camp session focusing on animal science, UCAPS seemed like the perfect organization to bring in for a hands-on lesson.

“I want to make learning fun for them. Even though it’s summer time, it’s always good to keep those wheels turning,” she said. “I like to do more hands-on, interactive learning.”

As they sat for the lesson, many children in class raised their hands to ask questions or to be called on.

“What if you make eye contact with a dog that doesn’t like you?” one girl asked.

Slater explained that for some dogs, staring into their eyes seems like a challenge, so it is better to not make eye contact with strange dogs in case they become agitated or scared by your stare.

Kennedi hopes she’ll be able to use what she learned at home.

“I wanted to learn how to actually train them,” she said, referring to her dogs Nova and Bruno.

Teaching the children best practices on taking care of their pets and staying safe around animals was Jamerson’s hope in arranging the class.

“I know that a lot of kids have pets and a lot of the kids want pets … so I figured it would be nice to have a class on being a good pet owner,” she said. “I hope they take what they’ve learned today and apply it to their daily routine with their pets. [I hope they can] be more knowledgeable when they’re out with their pet or see an animal, learn the precautions they can take. … And I knew they would enjoy having a furry friend in class.”

Wurth said she hopes to continue outreach efforts, particularly with children, in the coming months.

“We just want to engage with the community more, and education starts with kids,” she said.

Gallery: B&GC

Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or cbutler@eldoradonews.com.

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