June 12, 2003
Educating Kids on Kindness to All Creatures Great and Small
By Gina A. Dabney – Oklahoma Gazette
Sit and stay are common commands that a dog can learn while respect and responsibility towards animals are what children learn from Creatures and Kids, Inc., a nonprofit organization devoted to humane education and violence prevention. Since 2002, the group has been spreading their message in a variety of ways including through the Being Aware, Responsible and Kind (BARK) program, working with animal rescue groups, and through educational outreach. Skills like compassion, commitment, and teamwork have proven to be beneficial to both human and animal development. “It’s a good feeling for all,” said Penny Nichols, Vice President of Creatures and Kids, Inc.
Creatures and Kids has certified therapy teams that work with children and animals. Nichols, who is a certified evaluator for American Kennel Clubs, Canine Good Citizens program, has been involved in showing, training for competitive obedience and teaching the public about animal behavior and development for 13 years. Also, she completed the Animal Team Evaluators program through the Delta Society, which offers a Pet Partners Program that certifies all types of animals for therapy work. Although Creatures and Kids has worked with a variety of animals including rabbits, alpacas, Nichols’ expertise is with dogs. “I’m really a dog trainer,” said Nichols, who certifies animal/handler teams for the Creatures and Kids volunteer program, Creatures and Kids Oklahoma Certification (CKOC).
Creatures and Kids has been educating and training youth the importance of caring for animals. Youth within the juvenile bureau, physically challenged children, and typical, everyday-type of kids are taught to interact appropriately with animals, safety in handling animals and animal nutrition. “We work with all types of children,” said Nichols. Recently, the organization worked with Sante Fe High School in Edmond and has been contacted by several elementary schools who are interested in the program.
Currently, the group needs more therapy teams. “We hope to have 100 teams to pick from,” said Nichols. To become a animal/handler team, six weeks of basic training must be completed. Each week, which is a one-hour session, a new skill is taught. In addition, 5 15 minutes per day working with your dog, or an assigned dog, on the new skill is encouraged. In addition, the organization needs a variety of talents including grant writing. One group that has supported the organization financially is Awesome Alpacas. “It was a really big help to us,” said Nichols. Other ways to help the organization, in addition to giving money, are to volunteer time or services, donate supplies, or become a member. For more information call 478-8550 or visit www.creaturesandkids.org.
Creatures and Kids, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to humane education and violence prevention has these suggestions of how to and how not to interact with a dog.
- Teach Productive Games: Frisbee, Retrieving, and Hide and Seek.
- Take the dog outside on lease to promote good housebreaking.
- Spend 10 15 ³doggie minutes² per day working with your dog. Add a few extra minutes for brushing and general grooming. They love the attention.
- Keep your dog¹s vaccinations current and visit your veterinarian regularly.
- Schedule boarding stays in advance
- Wrestle with your dog, especially if it is one of the larger breeds.
- Play Tug-O-War and Let Go. Both of these seemingly harmless games promote aggressive behavior and builds a dog¹s confidence against its owner.
- Leave a young dog (under 20 months) loose and unattended in your home. Never leave young children alone with any dog.
- Ask your dog to jump on a fence or over a gate as you communicate with them.
- Encourage aggressive behavior towards other animals.