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Kids and Canines, Earning and Learning

From the SPA

By Lynn Weisberg

Several years ago, the SPA was given a donation to underwrite dog-training classes for school children. This was very successful, but eventually the money ran out and the program had to end. Recently, one of our supporters (who prefers to remain anonymous) inquired about possibly doing this again and offered to pay for an entire 12-week session for eight children! We asked another non-profit organization, Ojalá Niños, if eight of their kids 12 to 18 years old might be interested in participating. They were thrilled, and immediately had enough interested kids to get started; in fact, a ninth teenager was so determined to participate that our trainer, Tomás Bustamante, who teaches each class, graciously accepted her into the program.

It works like this: the kids must be enrolled in school (we want to encourage education, of course); they must attend training classes twice per week; and they must demonstrate commitment and responsibility. In exchange, they learn how to work with dogs and teach basic obedience (sit, stay, down, and “leave it”) and we pay them a small stipend for each class they attend. These kids are usually busy after school helping out with childcare and other chores at home, and the stipend helps to compensate families for the loss of their assistance.

At the first class, it was apparent that four kids were quite nervous around dogs. It has been a joy to watch their confidence grow. These four now go directly to “their” dogs, enter the cages, make the dogs sit, then leash them and walk them to class with no hesitation. Their faces light up when their dogs obey them. All have become attached to the dogs they work with and will now tell others how to properly care for their pets. Our dogs are showing improved behavior, and by having learned basic commands, they are more adoptable. This program is a win-win for all concerned. We are deeply grateful to our donor for allowing us to do this once again.

Let us show you our star dog pupils at the SPA, Los Pinos 7, 152 6124, Monday-Saturday between 11am and 2pm. Donations to our Pet Food Money Bank will be applied to the annual cost of feeding these stars and the rest of our resident animals (about 100 cats and dogs). Details are here:

Please spread the word and encourage your animal-loving friends to donate too!


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