Kids learn all things animals at shelter camp

Aug 4, 2022

It’s the dog (and cat) days of summer at the Humane Society and Shelter SouthCoast, and the shelter is letting area kids beat the heat while also being able to learn all  about animals as part of its annual “Buddies Club” summer program.

This is the fourth year camps have been held.

“We got a little bit sidelined during the pandemic like everyone else, but we’re back,” said Melinda Ventura, the executive director of the shelter. 

Along with new friendships, kids also make crafts, help incubate eggs for hatching and learn from professionals with animal-related careers, including the animal control officer and a local veterinarian.

For the last day of camp, all the kids go to a farm owned by Animal Control Officer Sandra Gosselin where they can learn about livestock and ride horses. They finish off the day with a pizza party.

“It’s a very multi-faceted program here,” Ventura said.

During the Aug. 4 session, kids learned about the Dartmouth Police Department’s K-9 unit, along with meeting a couple of its four-legged officers: Gunner and Sig.

Officer Justin Amaral, who handles Gunner, detailed the amount of training it takes to ensure his canine partner is up to the task. He noted that he and his four-legged partner train twice a week with the Boston Police Department.

“They learn behavior very well,” he said of the dogs. “The more you’re around your dog, the more they’ll pick up on what you do.”

While the dogs can be very serious on the job, he noted the police dogs can be very friendly and energetic.

“Gunner likes to jump and be up high,” Amaral said. “You do not want him in your house. If you’ve got food, say goodbye to it.”

Following the talk, the kids had the opportunity to ask questions, with many making comparisons to their own dogs.

“I have a Mally named Molly,” said eight-year-old Peyton Mello.

Kids also had the opportunity to play with the many animals awaiting adoption at the shelter, something nearly all participants said was their favorite part.

Nine-year-old Nora McNeil of Dartmouth said playing with the puppies and kittens were easily her highlight of the week.

“I just love cats and dogs,” she said.

New Bedford resident Nyalisse Andrade, 9, said she especially liked being able to socialize with the bunny rabbit, adding that it was a good lesson in having patience.

“Some kids don’t have it,” she said. “Sometimes they go into the bunny room and have to wait very long for the bunny to trust them.”

Andrade added that she hopes to work at an animal shelter when she grows up.

“I would love to be at a shelter and with my own animal when I get back home,” she said. “I’m an animal freak.”

“Buddies Club” sessions will be held again between Aug. 15 and 19. Each session is $225.00 per child. Adults will be asked to sign their children in and out every day. For more information, or to enroll, email or stop by the shelter.