Guest Blog Post by Hand2Paw Intern Shayla Cunningham
You can stick to your resolutions better this year if you have a partner, why not include a pet?
- Exercise more: If you don’t yet have a dog but you are thinking of one, and exercising, why not check out a shelter and ask if they have any active dogs? You can start off slow with a dog who just needs an hour or so of a walk, or an intelligent, energetic dog who needs long walks, playtimes, hikes, etc. That or earn some extra cash/volunteer hours while getting exercise by signing up to be a dog walker on rover.com or by contacting your local shelter.
- Learn a new skill/Read more: 1) You and your pet can do this by working on some behavioral tricks. Gather your treats and see if you can train your pet simple tricks like shake or spin. 2) Pet already trained? You can build on those skills easily with some help from some written material and practice. You can even save money by just going to your local library and ask for the training books! Just be wary, if the book says anything about hurting your animal with shocks or punishments, avoid! 3) Or learn how to knit sweaters for your furry friend.
- Give back to the community: Volunteering is always welcome at shelters. Whether you help walk dogs, cuddle cats or work with Philly’s huge homeless pet populations, you can make a difference! Want to volunteer with the Pennsylvania SPCA? Contact the volunteer coordinator at email@example.com or fill out an application on their website. Can’t make it out at this time? You can make tax-deductible donations to a shelter, Hand2Paw or one of our Furriends!
This summer, we are beyond proud to have interns working simultaneously at two different animal shelters. Every intern who comes through our program teaches us something and helps us improve our program and we are grateful for that. Some show us where more guidance is needed. Others highlight the humane education aspect of our work in a whole new way. Let me explain.
Our interns go through an interview process just like they would for any job. We talk about their schooling, work experience and their experience with animals. Most of them have had pets as well as other kinds of exposures to animals. Sometimes it is difficult to disguise what I am feeling when young people talk about their personal experiences with animals. When we ask them if they have had pets, most will say they have had many pets. Unlike most of us who have grown up with a few animals who lived out their lives with us, most of the youth that we work with either have experienced an unstable housing situation that led to surrendering their animals to shelters and replacing them when they could or simply a family economic situation that meant their animals frequently were given away to friends or family members who might be, at least temporarily, in a better position to care for them. Each of these stories is moving as we think about how we would feel if our beloved pets had to be given away. Then, there are other times when the humane education element of our mission really comes to the fore.
First, there was the young man who proudly told us he had ten dogs, 8 of them puppies. He said he tried to keep the male and female dogs apart when he knew it was “that time” but he had messed up. He was grateful to learn about programs where could get free or low cost spay/neuter services. Then, there are the more painful stories when it is difficult to keep from wincing. Just recently, we asked one young interviewee about her experience with dogs, and she told us about a relative who had dogs that he kept outside on the lot of his auto repair business. He wanted them to be “tough” so they would provide security for the business so she told us that he beat them “so they would be mean.” When the dogs responded to these ”training” methods by biting a friend, her relative got angry and shot and killed them. She reported this as you or I might report a normal childhood event. She disagreed with what he did and was sad about it but it was an otherwise unremarkable part of her growing up. Another candidate mentioned that she had rescued animals herself. We asked about that and she calmly told us about some neighborhood kids finding a small stray dog and saying “let’s go kill that dog.” She instead talked her mother into taking the dog in, at least temporarily.
This is what we have to work with. For many of our young people, we need to redefine what is “normal” treatment of animals. No, it’s not normal to beat animals as a means of training. No, it’s not normal to shoot or kill animals when they misbehave or you are otherwise done with them. We usually highlight the fact that our program provides better lives for shelter animals and job training for young people who need to get a leg up but it’s times like this that remind us that humane education– –teaching youth about respect and compassion for animals and how to pass it on– –is an equally significant part that mission.
This article is poignant and informative of the plight faced by many of the youth that Hand2Paw serves. She states
“[A]dolescents in foster care are often forgotten. They become “lost” in the system, unless they become behavior problems and are referred to the juvenile justice system. But what about the children who are not a behavior problem and who can’t go back home? What happens to them?
In many cases, a youth will have a relative or other important adult in their life who will guide them through the transitional stage of emancipating from the foster care system. That adult will provide them with guidance, advice, advocacy and assistance in reaching that next step in life. Some youth will consider vocational training or college, while others will choose to enter the work force. The supportive adult will guide them through this process, helping them fill out college applications and financial aid forms, or help them find a job.
However, the reality is that not everyone will have this opportunity. Not every foster child will have a caring, responsible adult in his/her life. It’s really the luck of the draw.”
Hand2Paw seeks, in a small way, to be that supportive force in an adolescent’s life. We welcome your support in our efforts.
For those of you who appreciate Hand2Paw’s mission of putting two problems together to create a solution for both, you may enjoy reading about this new program with similar goals. San Francisco has come up with a unique two for one solution to address both panhandling on the streets and increasing numbers of animals being turned into its shelters as a result of the recession. With government backing, WOOF, Wonderful Opportunities for Occupants and Fidos, will pair residents in supportive housing who agree not to panhandle with adolescent puppies from shelters who are in need of more socialization in order to be permanently adopted. The program also provides participants with weekly payments for fostering the puppies along with training in both animal care and job skills.
“We think it will be absolutely magic to give these individuals and these dogs a second chance together,” says Mayor Ed Lee’s point person on homelessness. We at Hand2Paw could not agree more!