Lucky Pups...(and Parading Chicks.)

For the past two weeks, our girlie participated in her favorite activity of the summer. Now, you might think that's swimming...or riding bikes...or sleeping late. Oh, but you know Kristen.For two weeks, Kristen trained dogs for adoption. Taught agility to kittens. Created cat condos, pampered pups, and socialized with strays.For Kristen, summer vacation means camp—Camp Love-A-Pet at the Spartanburg Humane Society.Kristen's love of animals is immense. After all, not many kids willingly rise at 7 a.m. during summer vacation. And yet, our girl jumps out of bed in time to feed her chickens before heading out to care for new furry friends.Camp Love-A-Pet is a fantastic camp, one that's in high demand among Spartanburg kids. After hearing about Kristen's experiences at camp (she attended camp during the past four years), two of my friends asked how they could “guarantee” a spot for their kids next year.There's no guarantee. Sign up early! There's always a waiting list.The camp director designs a program that benefits not only the adoptable pets but also teaches the campers about the responsibility of pet ownership. Spaying, neutering, heart-worm prevention—the kids learn about all of the unglamorous aspects of owning a pet. And the lessons stick. Yesterday, after a discussion about heart-worms that killed a dog—and seeing the 78 heart-worms—Kristen's anger at the owners' irresponsibility was palpable. It's a sad lesson, but one that made a strong impact.Each day, the campers work in pairs with an assigned dog to prepare it for its “forever home.” Kristen and her friend first worked with sweet Abby:(photo from the Spartanburg Humane Society)...but then, happily—Abby was adopted! Usually, the Humane Society asks the owners to allow the dogs to finish their camp training. However, the new owners live more than an hour away and couldn't arrange a return trip—so off went Abby to her new home.On Monday, Kristen and her friend began training June:* (photo from the Spartanburg Humane Society) Of course, I met and visited with June—with the firm understanding that we could not add any more pets to our family. After all, in updating our records at the veterinarian's office this week, I began listing all of our pets on the new form--and ran out of room. There were 12 spaces.* I needed 14. I'm afraid we'll soon be featured on “Animal Hoarders.”The girls worked with June all week. At first, Kristen worried about training June in just one week. However, each day after camp, Kristen gushed about how well June mastered each trick.In additional to working with their assigned dogs, the kids spend quality time with other adoptable animals, helping to socialize them. As you can imagine, it's a tough job, loving on all of those little furry babies! At the end of each camp day, the kids can bring one of their pets from home for “Pet Parade.”Let me rephrase that.The moms or dads bring a pet to the Humane Society so that the camper can show off his or her pet to the group.In my case, I chased a chicken (Sugar) around the yard in the sweltering heat, wrestled it into the cat carrier, packed the poor, stressed chick into the car, and drove it to the Humane Society, where Chicken Mama Kiki took over. Poor Sugar...she looks like she's in jail. Who knew that chicken wrangling would be in a mother's job description?  Kristen coaxed Sugar out of the carrier with the ear of corn. (I hoped the corn would distract her for the car ride.)The campers asked questions about Sugar, who is a Golden Campine. Many of the kids never experienced a chicken close-up.Even the camp director learned something new. Kristen told the group that the color of the chicken's ear lobes determined what color eggs it would lay.Sugar survived her brief encounter with fame and happily returned to her freedom. Tonight, June graduates from camp. Kristen is confident that June is well-trained and ready for her new family.Kristen also invited my dog-crazy sisters to the graduation ceremony, where she will show off June's newly acquired skills.I believe ulterior motives are involved.I've warned Kristen not to get her hopes up that June will become part of our extended family.Still, June IS awfully sweet...Sigh...If you or someone you know needs a new furry family member, please look first at the Spartanburg Humane Society.I wish I could take all of those sweet babies home with me.(I really am turning into the crazy animal lady...eek!)Cheers to all of the campers and their adorable dogs! Congratulations to you all on a job well-done.And thank you to the volunteers and camp director for an excellent experience for our girl.XO ~Julie