ABC Dog Obedience Instruction Program Canadian Student of the Month – August 2013
ABC’s Students Saving Lives program was launched nearly 10 years ago to help save the lives of shelter dogs. No other student better exemplifies this mission than Pat May. In 2011, Pat retired from a career in community development and relocated to Creston, British Columbia, Canada, where she looked for a volunteer position. Always a dog lover, she found a job doing office work one day a week at Creston Pet Adoption and Welfare Society (PAWS), an independent no-kill shelter. Two years later, Pat is now an ABC grad with honors and trainer at Creston PAWS, where she volunteers nearly every day, managing the kennel area.
- Tell us more about the work you do at Creston PAWS.
With a bunch of other amazing volunteers, we take care of the dogs’ basic needs and help them become more adoptable. Every interaction with the dogs is an opportunity for training and, as the in-charge person, my job is to develop training plans for each individual dog and carry through on the training. I do a lot of administrative work for PAWS as well.
- What was the biggest challenge you faced during your externship, and how did you overcome it?
As an inexperienced trainer, my biggest challenge was to overcome my lack of confidence, which I did by gaining knowledge and experience. During the externship, I was involved in a program to provide basic training to dogs chosen to participate in a project through Citadel Canine Society, ‘a non-profit society that rescues dogs from shelters and other rescue organizations and then provides training as service dogs to help new veterans and police officers dealing with PTSD.’ The dog I was responsible for, Chevy, a Shar-Pei/Great Dane mix, went on to service dog training, and is a star at what she does.
- What pet story touched you most during your volunteer hours for the Students Saving Lives program?
Kit, a five-year-old German shepherd mix, was at our shelter for a year. He developed kennel stress and was a nut when he was in the kennel. No one showed any interest in him because of his apparently aggressive behavior. Outside of the kennel he showed himself to be an energetic, intelligent, friendly dog. We continued to try to alleviate his stress inside the kennel and worked diligently with him on his basic obedience and behavioral issues. Finally, he was chosen to go to another shelter where he would be fostered instead of being kenneled; his behavior outside the kennel allowed his potential as a most-excellent dog to shine through. He has since been adopted and all is well.
- How did the ABC dog obedience program help you achieve your goals?
I was not an experienced trainer when I started at the shelter, and the ABC course was a vital part of building the confidence I needed to do the work I am involved in and to understand the big picture of what we are trying to accomplish at the shelter. I was pleased at how thorough the course was; having one-on-one mentoring helped me a great deal.
- What are your future goals as a trainer for Creston PAWS?
I would like to develop a program to provide adopters with the basic skills they need when they take a shelter dog home. I am interested in continuing to develop my skills in every area of shelter dog care: health and well-being, training, behavioral issues; essentially whatever it takes to help the dogs become all they can be. I intend to learn everything I can to give the shelter dogs what they need to find loving, fur-ever families.
Find out more about the great work of Creston PAWS and see how you can help at www.paws-crestonbc.org.