Pet Responsibility Program Termed 'Big Success'
The fourth graders bopped along to "Who Let The Dogs Out?" as they made their way to their seats in the auditorium. As they sat down, photos of them flashed on a big screen, causing excited chatter as faces were recognized.
The setting was the auditorium at Carthage Elementary School. The occasion was the final assembly, celebrating all the students had learned during a five-week Pet Responsibility Program.
"Speuter," the mascot of the Citizens' Pet Responsibility Committee, waved to the students as they entered. At various points during the activities, the children embraced Speuter. They had also embraced the message Speuter represented: "Spay and Neuter" to save lives. Around her waist, held up by suspenders, Speuter sported a "litter" box, filled to the brim with toy puppies. A sign on the box read, "Stop Littering!" The message was not lost on the students; they explained the origin of Speuter's name and the significance of the litter box and the puppies.
A true/false quiz confirmed that the students had in fact absorbed the main messages of the program. They then approached the stage in small groups and explained their "pet responsibility" posters to the audience. The final group explained the theme of their poster, "Respect Your Pets!" The sentiment could not have been more appropriate.
When the final group had returned to their seats, the large screen disappeared, revealing a small agility course for dogs. Moore County Kennel Club member Jane Hammett appeared with her three Shelties, who she explained were not only good-looking but also very smart. They have won national competitions both for how they appear and for how they can perform physically. The students watched in awe as the dogs leapt over jumps, wove around posts and slipped through tunnels.
After the demonstration, the students were invited to greet their four-legged guests. Doris Russell and Nancy Copeland, the committee's instructors who conducted the program at Carthage, had their dogs, Tux and Shinook, with them. Paul Tillman, from the county's Animal Center, introduced them to a bearded dragon reptile and talked to them about the difference between exotic animals and pets.
The event ended with pizza, supplied by the school, and Rita's Italian Ice, donated and served by Gerri Scott.
The Pet Responsibility Committee designed this program to integrate with Moore County Schools' Character Education program, focusing on good judgment, integrity, kindness, perseverance, respect and responsibility and is also linked to the N.C. Standard Course of Study.
The program consists of five modules focused on making the students aware of their responsibilities toward the animals who share our lives, while also having fun with the topics. For emphasis, guest speakers and their animals are included in the program.
Representatives from the county's Animal Center bring a homeless dog or cat to meet the students, and they discuss the problems we all face of too many dogs and cats without homes.
Popular guests are Bob Baillie and his guide dog, Devon. Baillie talks about the challenges of being blind and about his unique relationship with Devon. He is the founder and chair of MIRA Foundation USA Inc., an organization headquartered in Aberdeen. Its mission is to ultimately provide guide dogs and training to blind children.
The program concludes with an assembly, a celebration, which includes a chance to socialize with dogs and cats, and sometimes miniature horses, ferrets and reptiles.
Vass-Lakeview Elementary School was the pilot school for the program in the fall of 2008. Since late August of this year, the committee has been welcomed into Academy Heights, West End, Carthage, Aberdeen and Pinehurst Elementary schools. An additional four schools are in line for after the holidays.
"The Pet Responsibility Program was great," says a teacher at Carthage. "We would welcome the opportunity for our fourth graders to participate in this learning experience again next year.All the activities and presenters were informative and entertaining.You can always tell if children are listening by the quality of questions they ask.
"We have heard children talking to each other about the program. It shows that they are really thinking about the care of their pets, and that they now know how much responsibility it takes to own a pet.The entire experience was rewarding and a true learning experience."
Angela Zumwalt is co-chair of the Citizens' Pet Responsibility Committee of Moore County.
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