In July, children from The Gathering Place had a fantastic week during Kids Animal Camp at Rescue Village, where they learned how to take care of puppies, and taught them how to sit, stay and come when called. The Gathering Place is a caring community that supports, educates, and empowers individuals and families currently coping with cancer. The Gathering Place Animal Camp provides a supportive and immersive experience for kids, so they can meet others dealing with cancer in their lives, normalize feelings around cancer, learn coping strategies and self-care, and have fun! During Animal Camp, the kids worked on coping skills, expressing their feelings, caring for others (through working with the animals), and saying goodbye.
Each camper was paired with a puppy, whom they named and picked out a special collar. The kids learned what puppies should and should not eat, and how much puppies sleep. As a special surprise, the kids got to hear about the day the puppies were born at Rescue Village. The puppies’ mother is a dog named Bluebell who was very pregnant when she came to Rescue Village through a humane case. Shortly after Bluebell arrived, she gave birth to the nine puppies who, by July, were old enough to be puppy pals for camp. During camp, Rescue Village’s Medical Director, Megan Volpe, DVM, showed the kids an X-ray of Bluebell’s belly with all her unborn puppies, causing the kids to wonder which puppy was theirs in the X-ray. Dr. Volpe also taught the kids how to listen to their puppy’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope.
Rescue Village’s Dog Behavior Health Manager, Z Peoples, taught the kids basic dog training techniques. Of course, not all the puppies caught on, but the kids sure had fun trying. Campers also made dog treats, met some kittens and cats, and toured the shelter to see what goes on behind the scenes of a humane society.
“We have enjoyed working with Rescue Village in previous years, and we’re so happy we could reconnect after having a camp hiatus due to COVID,” said Erin Rafter, the Family & Children Programs Director of The Gathering Place. “This was the first year we had a week specifically designated for kids with cancer and their siblings,” said Rafter. “The kids benefit by being able to meet kids like them who ‘get it’ without having to explain what they are going through.” For camp graduation, each child wrote a letter to the future adopter of their puppy, describing its personality and favorite toy. There were tears as they said goodbye to their puppies. Still, tears turned to smiles when the balloons and chocolate cake were presented, along with a certificate of graduation from The Gathering Place and a guest visit from mama Bluebell.