Where Kids And Pets Train Each Other

Carol everett and friend. Coco Zickos photo

The Humane Society’s Critter Camp, says Carol Everett, helps kids respect animals, the land and one another

You absolutely can teach old dogs new tricks, says Kaua’i Humane Society volunteer Carol Everett. In fact, it’s one of the many things Garden Isle keiki are doing this summer as part of the organization’s enrichment program, Critter Camp.

The tri-annual camp, founded by Everett in 2005, is a weeklong course that teaches third-, fourth- and fifth-graders how to be more compassionate and respectful to all walks of life.

“It teaches them how to be more humane toward each other, Kaua’i and animals – not just pets,” she says.

Clicker-training pooches available for adoption at Kaua’i Humane Society is one of several interactive activities in which the kids participate this summer.

“It really helps because a lot of the reasons why we get our larger dogs is because nobody’s bothered to teach them manners,” explains Everett. “They’re really nice animals; they just don’t have the manners. By giving them a little manners training, they get adopted a lot faster.”

It’s hard for her not to notice the smiles on the kids’ and dogs’ faces by the end of the training curriculum.

“Critter Camp gives the kids something to do to stay off the streets and out of trouble – it gives them something constructive to do,” says Everett, a certified humane education specialist. “There’s so much kids can learn, and if they’re halfway interested in animals, this is a perfect opportunity.”

And it’s not only fun and hands-on – with games such as endangered species’ musical chairs, where the kids pretend they are animals whose habitats are increasingly destroyed by human activity – the program is highly educational.

“By educating the young, it’s the only way we’re going to be able to change the problems and issues here on Kaua’i,” says Everett.

For instance, by learning about the necessity of microchips, which only cost $5 at Kaua’i Humane Society, the children will inform their parents at home, giving more pets a better chance to reunite with their families should they become lost.

“They’re going to be much better pet owners,” adds Everett, who started volunteering with the nonprofit in 2004. “They’re going to understand our environment and our fragile system here on Kaua’i. They’re going to be good dog trainers. And they will understand the problems, why these animals are here and what they can do. Plus, they meet new friends with the same interests.”

Everett also started the Kaua’i society’s foster program in 2004, where dogs and cats available for adoption are acclimated to home life.

A Michigan native who spent most of her life in Colorado, she began a Scottish terrier rescue organization in the early 1980s that is still going strong there.

Everett, who spends between 10 and 15 hours volunteering each week, also initiated

two favorite things in the universe are kids and pets,” she says of why she dedicates so much of her free time to Kaua’i Humane Society. “If you do what you enjoy, you’re never working, you’re just having a fun day.”

It is thanks to Everett, who was employed by the organization for a number of years, that an education division even exists at Kaua’i Humane Society.

“There was nothing here when I started,” she says.

So what is the No. 1 issue plaguing the island that Everett continues to teach others about?

“Not spaying or neutering pets,” she says without hesitation. “We want to be out of business.”

On an island with limited resources and space, two dogs have six puppies, those six puppies have six puppies of their own and so on, until a crisis ensues. It’s an issue regularly covered at Critter Camp.

“So they can really understand the impact of what we do as people on the environment. It’s not just about petting dogs and cats,” she says. “It’s about everything that we do impacts everything on this island.”

The final week of Critter Camp will be Monday through Friday, July 11 to 15, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The cost is $130. The next session is in the fall. For more information, contact Mele Brewer at 632-0610 ext. 103.