Camp SICSA was four wild weeks of fur-flying fun, but also a great opportunity to get kids thinking critically about kindness. Every day included a visit to each of our animals to see who got adopted and who was still here, to teach our adoptable pets how awesome kids are, and to reinforce body language and appropriate interaction to keep kids safe.
All animals in SICSA’s adoption program receive a behavior evaluation, and those involved with our youth programs must qualify for safe interaction with children. Our final week of campers met a dog named Vincent. He was barking and jumping up in his kennel. Our campers were prepared though. We talked about barrier frustration, and the best ways to respect Vincent and to help him feel more comfortable. Barrier frustration is a response many dogs have to being excited, but unable to act on their impulses, such as when they are behind a fence, window, or kennel door. Often the dogs are really excited to interact with kids and are expressing their frustration at not being able to, which can make it more difficult to find a forever home. But there is a way for our youth programs participants to help.
Campers were instructed to ignore Vincent while he was in his kennel and give treats to other dogs who were showing good manners. When he got quiet, he was given a treat. Later that day one of our adoption counselors brought Vincent in on a leash to meet the kids. Outside the kennel he was a totally different dog – quiet, friendly, calm, and really pleased to meet the kids. Our campers all fell in love, and so did Vincent!
We discussed how we could be kind to a dog like Vincent. Here are the ideas our campers came up with:
- Spend more time with him outside of his kennel
- Train him to do tricks
- Give him treats when he stays calm
- Promote him with chalk drawings on the sidewalk near our entrance
- Tell other people about him
- Keep him out of the kennel – either in the lobby or our clinic waiting room – during the day to relieve his stress and help him meet more people
We spent some time almost every day doing these things with Vincent, and by the end of the week he was much calmer in his kennel when we visited. Just a week later, Vincent was adopted. This is what our youth programs are all about. The kids learned safety and body language, they spent time thinking critically about the situation and felt empowered to come up with solutions, and most importantly they had a first-hand experience in kindness and seeing beyond that first impression to make a difference for an animal. For more information about our youth programs, visit www.sicsa.org/youth.