Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Teaching Empathy and Kindness Through Animal Rescue: Oliver's Hereos.

Rescuing an abandoned animal can be a wonderful way to introduce children into the world

of rescuing a pets. The idea of saving another life is an important lesson of kindness, respect,

love, and empathy. I have been involved in dog rescue for many years, and one particular dog

inspired me to write a children’s book called Oliver’s Heroes, The Spider Adventure. It’s a fun-

filled adventure story, with the theme that it’s good to appreciate everyone’s unique differences

and gifts, and that by supporting each other we can build our self-confidence.

       Pet rescue can take many shapes, sizes, and opportunities. I have rescued dogs for years.

My chances to rescue have come at unexpected times, like when I was driving to work, taking a

jog, or when someone called me to let me know there is a stray dog in need. Not everyone can

take on a pet or add one to their family, but even a simple call to the police or animal control to

help get a dog to a shelter can be a teaching moment.  Letting  your children know that you care

and have tried to help – that is rescue work.

     I always think the best time to adopt is anytime, as long as it is an enthusiastic family

decision. A dog wants to be part of the pack, and a dog knows when someone doesn’t want them

around or if their “pack” (the family) doesn’t think they are important. That is a very sad place to

be for a dog, and the family misses out on a chance to have a friend for life.

     Children may need help on learning the responsibilities, and the patience it takes to raise a

dog. Dogs need to learn the rules just like children do, and we all learn better with a little

patience and kindness. Children who are eager to get a dog may promise to do all the caretaking,

but not all children are mature enough to take on the responsibility. Sometimes children lose

interest in something after a while and move on to the next interesting thing. Getting a dog is a

chance to teach kids that there are some responsibilities that are real commitments, and once

made, they have to follow through. That’s a good life lesson. Be ready to take over if a child

doesn’t keep up with the job – a dog still need food, water, and shelter every day! Happily, many

children connect with a dog like a best friend, and they will often think about the dog’s comfort

and happiness. It is a pleasure to see! When a child does that, you know that he or she will be a

good friend to people too.

     Lastly, take pride in rescuing a pet! There are many ways to show that you and your child

saved a life: bumper stickers, key chains, jewelry, etc.  Not only have you rescued a life, but you

gave another pet a chance for adoption.  Find out what is going on in your local area for

adoptions and help save a life.  Your child will learn about the greatest gift one can give- hope,

life, and love.

Cheryl Smith is a public defender who started a non-profit, Just The Place Inc., to assist in the

care of pets when owners were experiencing difficult financial situations or environmental

crises. She was inspired to write “Oliver’s Heroes: The Spider Adventure”

( after her courtroom deputy found Oliver, a dog who was alone, thin

and scared on the street.