October 10, 2010 in Idaho Voices

Program teaches pet care to kids

Laura Umthun lauraumthun@yahoo.com
 

“Distinguished, male American bulldog who loves long walks, heart-to-heart talks or just hanging out, is looking for a long-term relationship. If you are lonely and looking for a devoted companion, so am I.” Toby

Toby was abandoned when his family moved away, and is just one of the many adoptable pets that Kootenai Humane Society volunteer Nancy Morrison hopes will find a loving home.

“The economic challenges of our times have forced some pet owners to give up their animals,” says Morrison. “Foreclosure has definitely contributed to population growth at the humane society.”

Kootenai Humane Society is a nonprofit, no-kill adoption center whose vision is “creating lifetime friends through adoption.”

The Humane Society relies strictly on donations to feed and house over 1,500 animals a year, according to director Rondi Renaldo. The average daily census is about 175 to 200 animals.

Adoptions average about 2,000 per year, and an additional 1,200 to 1,500 animals are treated medically or are spayed/neutered.

Although involved in many Humane Society activities, Morrison wants to dedicate more time to the educational program geared to second-graders called “How to Take Care of Your Pet.”

“Different dogs and cats have different needs and personalities,” Morrison said. “Finding the right breed that fits your family’s lifestyle is an important first step.”

Morrison encourages potential pet owners to visit the shelter, and become familiar with the pet they think they might like to adopt.

“Asking questions – does the pet shed, bark, need a lot of exercise, play well with children, or like to be left alone are important,” says Morrison.

During the elementary school presentations, Sue Williamson and her certified therapy dog, Cosmo, an Australian shepherd, are introduced. The children are taught the correct approach to a dog on a leash, and they practice by petting Cosmo.

“Children also need to understand the different jobs dogs do like hunting, rescue, police, herding, or being a companion,” Morrison said.

Other therapy dogs used in the program are Morrison’s chow Bernese mountain dog named Honey Bun; and Sharon Hollar’s miniature schnauzer, Molly.

During the program books are read to the children that relate to the information presented like “Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy,” by Jane O’Connor, which talks about the right kind of dog for a family; and “Before You Were Mine,” by Marybell Boelts, which tells a story about a dog that was adopted from a humane society.

Morrison and volunteer Bonnie Niles also recycle cell phones with all proceeds from the sales dedicated to the Hearts of Gold, a compassionate medical fund that helps shelter animals that have emergency medical needs.

Among her other Humane Society volunteer efforts, Morrison collects used towels from Post Falls Peak Fitness, John Andrews, La Tournette’s, Lather and New Dawn salons, which are used for bedding and shelter cleaning.

Morrison raises money by helping with Humane Society fundraisers, and wrapping gifts at Borders during the holiday season.

Morrison’s husband, Dick, volunteers his time by designing, publishing and distributing many adoptable pet posters.

“We cannot do without our awesome volunteers,” says Renaldo, who is always looking for new recruits.

Morrison’s goal is to eventually give educational programs to all Coeur d’Alene and surrounding area elementary schools.

“Educating children about proper pet care now will help them be responsible adult pet owners in the future,” says Morrison.

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