This blog post will not be entirely wildlife related, but I feel compelled to write it anyway.
I am a huge proponent of children getting positive experiences and encounters with animals of all sorts. Often children who are more introverted seem to be able to express themselves better if they can engage with animals.
I have spent my lifetime being an extreme animal lover (ask my parents, it is true). Now as an adult I find nothing more rewarding than using my skills and knowledge to teach young people and often adults about animals. For the couple of years or so I have had the opportunity to volunteer with my dogs at our locale Youth Prison. This facility houses youth (teenagers up to the age of 18) who are incarcerated because they have committed crimes.
It is amazing to see my dogs do their thing. They give these often troubled boys an hour to run around, play and laugh. They will sit and be petted and hugged. The youth will often ask me to tell or retell the story of the individual dog’s live. However corny it might sound, there is a little lesson there…The dogs had a rough life and behaved badly because of it. They got a second chance and they learned right from wrong and now they have a good life.
It is so rewarding to see the boys play, goof and cuddle with the dogs and in the process learn all about empathy and caring.
During last years spring kidding season (unrelated to joking, but goats having their babies) I occasionally would swap out a dog in favor of a new born goat kid. The boys and staff got great enjoyment out of this. One boy in particular made me laugh by telling one of the prison guards to stand back from the goat kid the boy was holding. The goat kid had been sleeping in the arms of the boy and the guard startled it by walking up and abruptly petting it. This display of caring for this particular boy was new.
With that experience in mind I hatched an idea and with the help of the prison staff AG-DAY was born. I got permission to bring livestock into to the big fenced in yard of the prison and the kids where allowed to come out in small groups and visit with the animals. I brought my goats and their kids, Molly the Wonder Donkey and a gorgeous Jersey cow borrowed from a neighboring farm. One of the prison staff brought several riding school horses. This turned into a day I will not soon forget. One of the youth stepped out into the yard and exclaimed out loud ‘I am in heaven’, he walked up to one of my goat kids picked her up and sat down with her to pet her and did not let go of her for an hour. Seeing all of these rough teens with huge smiles on their faces as they took turns riding a horse, feeding carrots to the donkey and milking my goats was a sight to see.
With the help of a wildlife rehabber friend and some borrowed educational wildlife we had a Wildlife day this year on Valentines day. The science teacher and myself had met prior so the youth had been learning about nature and turtles and raptors in particular for several weeks prior to getting an up close and personal experience with them. Their questions and observation where so interesting. I was the one with the turtles of course and several of the boys asked me if the turtles could actually see and hear them. They also got to name one of the turtles and the name Leonardo was the one picked.
I am sure me taking just a couple hours out of my day has saved turtle lives. These boys will never purposely run over a turtle after meeting several up close. Several found a new respect for wildlife that day. Something they probably never thought much about in the past.
Where am I going with this you might ask? I want to urge all readers of this particular blog to find a volunteer activity somewhere that gives you as much satisfaction as volunteering at the youth prison gives me. Pick whatever you think will make you smile. There is something for every one…Go walk dogs at your local SPCA, read the paper to people in nursing homes, volunteer at a school or a prison. Don’t tel me you don’t have time, make time! I can guarantee you will not regret it.
At Hobbitstee we have some very special volunteers as well, but that is not for everyone. We need volunteers in all capacities. Drivers who can assist with getting animals from point A to B are in very short supply and high demand. We also need help with paperwork, grant applications, fundraising and we have cages that need building, so if you are handy you are welcome too…
Visit the volunteer page on our website for more information on volunteer opportunities at Hobbitstee
If you have never done volunteer work give it a try, you will find you get more back than you give every time!