My kids have been begging for a pet for years, but we’ve told them time and time again that there’s just no room in our house, or our lifestyle, for a dog or a cat right now. When we visit grandparents in the summer, we’re gone for months at a time, and that’s just too long to leave a pet in a hotel, or to rely on friends to take care of them for us. Besides, I’m sure I don’t have it in me right now to take care of a pet, and I’m not sure I trust them to be responsible enough to take care of a pet themselves.
My resolve was sorely tested a few weeks ago, when I took my daughter and her Girl Scout troop to visit the Humane Society of Silicon Valley (HSSV), an animal shelter in Milpitas, for their Humane Society Experience workshop. We spent a couple of hours touring their facilities and learning about the ways the organization helps animals throughout the area, and learning about what it takes to adopt and care for a pet.
The workshop began with a brief lecture about HSSV’s mission and history, as well as the services they provide. Through a fun question-and-answer game, the girls learned that HSSV has sheltered and found homes for over half a million animals since 1929 (mostly dogs, cats and rabbits, but they’ll take in any animal, including one memorable crocodile that had been stolen from the San Jose zoo!). Then, they teamed up into pairs and raided the center’s Whole Pets Store to list down all the supplies a pet owner would need, and add up all the costs involved in owning a pet. The $2,000 per year price tag didn’t seem to scare off any would-be pet owners, especially when the girls got to meet and cuddle with one of the center’s education ambassadors, a lovely dog called Molly who was adopted by one of the center’s volunteer veterans.
After the classroom portion of the workshop ended, the girls took a tour of the shelter. We got to see HSSV’s dog park, where the shelter’s dogs get their exercise, and where dog owners can take their own dogs for some fun. There were two fenced-in areas, one for larger dogs and one for smaller dogs, each with all the rolling lawns, chew toys, hoops and hurdles to delight any dog’s heart. It was like a tiny Disneyland for dogs! Next, the girls were led back into the building and shown the center’s family rooms (where families can take their current pets to meet any new pets they and thinking of adopting), community rooms and Pet-Friendly cafe, with snacks for both humans and pets. The biggest hit of the afternoon was the adoption center, where they got to see all the animals who were waiting for a new home. With so many adorable dogs and cats and rabbits, everyone wanted to adopt a new pet — even the most reluctant would-be pet owner (yup, that would be me) would find it difficult to resist so many pairs of soulful puppy eyes and cuddly kittens. The final coup was learning about HSSV’s foster program where volunteers can care for an animal in their home until the shelter has found someone to adopt them. It sounds like a great way to introduce the kids to the responsibilities and rewards of owning a pet, without a long-term commitment, and it’s definitely something we’ll be looking into — so if you see me walking a dog or cuddling up with a kitten soon, don’t be surprised!
The Humane Society of Silicon Valley (HSSV) has a variety of education programs for kids and families; for a complete listing of ways you and your child can get involved, visit their website.