Occasionally — not as often as I’d like — I do some volunteering with the SPCALA, southern California’s very own Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I’m a humane education volunteer, which means that I don’t spend as much time cleaning up dog poo as I do interacting with kids. Your feelings on this may vary depending on your tolerance for animal scat and other people’s children.
This spring the SPCALA is running Friends for Life, a week-long camp where kids can learn the basics of pet care, interacting with animals, and even a bit of dog training. When I volunteered at Friends for Life a couple of years ago, the kids were sorted into smallish teams; each team was paired with a dog, and under the supervision of camp staff, the kids taught the dog a variety of obedience commands (sit, heel, come, et cetera) and agility tricks like running through a tunnel.
The benefit to the kids is obvious; they learn the basics of a valuable skill set, but they’re also able to develop traits like patience and responsibility. For the dogs, the benefits might be even better: A well-trained dog that’s proven to be good with kids is more likely to be adopted. (Parents experiencing any trepidation at this point should note that the dogs themselves undergo a strict screening process before being allowed to take part in the camp.)
The kids, of course, may also be asked to help clean up after their dogs. Trust me: Picking up dog poop is a valuable skill. I wish more people in my neighborhood had it.
Camp runs from March 29 to April 2, then again from April 5 to April 9. More details are at the SPCALA website.