Our slogan here at Emerald City Pet Rescue is “Love Can Save Lives.” Every day, all of us here at ECPR discover how true that is in so many ways. Not only does adopting a rescue pet give them a new chance at a happy life, but so many people who have rescued often tell us, “Really, he/she rescued ME!” I can personally speak to the truth of that as my first rescue dog, Lily, has been with me through thick and thin and I can’t imagine my life without her unconditional support and friendship. Dogs love without conditions, they forgive the unforgivable, and they have the resilience to overcome unspeakable horrors. My love and respect for how courageous they are is not only a personal passion of mine, but it has become a large part of why I do the work that I do. In the recent outreach that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of, I have had the privilege of witnessing dogs, just by being the loving souls that they are, reach the hearts of many and brighten their lives.
Recently, our wonderful Education and Outreach Specialist, Bethany, had the opportunity to collaborate with counselors from Southwest Youth and Family Services who help young children deal with aggression and bullying issues. They visited an after-school program in Burien called New Futures twice per week and asked us to assist with dogs one day per week. The children in the program ranged from ages 5 – 8.
As I often do, my personal dogs and I came along with Bethany (our ECPR “ambassador” dogs!) As much as we would love to bring adoptable rescue dogs to every type of event, outreach, or educational opportunity, we don’t always know how they are going to react in those types of situations and we want to make sure that we don’t put them in situations that may be unsafe for them or for others, nor do we want to add any extra stress to their lives. Fortunately, Bethany and I have wonderful rescue dogs of our own, some of them ECPR alums themselves, that can serve as ambassadors; they are socialized, very loving, and wonderful representations of how much love rescue pets have to give.
Bethany developed a variety of activities over a three-day period of time (one day a week for three weeks) to help the children learn and understand the concepts of empathy and compassion while using the animals as a way to help them understand the message. These lessons were partly about learning about animals and how to care for them, but she also had them relate things animals need to be healthy and happy to what they, the children, need to be healthy and happy. Their faces lit up when they realized that people and animals need the same things! We had them do activities where they worked in pairs (to encourage healthy communication and respect toward one another), and of course, we had plenty of “dog time” where they were able to pet and hold the dogs and learn about their rescue stories. It is amazing and uplifting when young children truly understand the responsibility of caring for a pet, and how teaching them about animals helps them relate to each other better as well. The teachers mentioned they already saw a noticeable difference in their behavior, and Bethany and I were so touched by that!
When we first met the children, they were rowdy (like all children are!) and oh-so-eager to meet the dogs, but as we taught them about how to approach, pet, and handle the dogs, and as we did various activities with them to help them understand empathy and compassion, we witnessed new concepts in the world opening up to them as they learned all about communication and body language. I was particularly amazed when one of my dogs got a bit frightened and tucked her tail between her legs – one of the young children said, “oh give her some space, she’s scared!” His concern for her and his attention to her body language truly touched my heart!
One of the children had a very difficult time sitting still and being quiet, but when I put my littlest chihuahua in his arms, suddenly he was very calm and so gentle with her. The immediate transformation as he showed compassion for my dog, Peaches, was simply amazing to witness.
Bethany did an incredible job creating tailoring lessons and activities to the age range and needs of these students and I feel incredibly honored that I was able to join her on this experience. I’m very thankful to be a part of such a compassionate rescue that values encouraging the community (people of ALL ages) to have compassion for animals, and for each other.
If you are a part of a school, a program, a community center, or anything else and you would like the opportunity to bring in a form of Humane Education, please contact our Education and Outreach Specialist Bethany at firstname.lastname@example.org