First Presbyterian holds Delightful Animals and Kids Day
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The First Presbyterian Church in Copperas Cove held its annual Delightful Animals and Kids Day Thursday afternoon, with eight dogs of different breeds for kids to learn about.
There were four sessions held for different daycare centers in the area and the Boys and Girls Club. During each session, kids listened and asked questions to the dog owners and were able to pet each dog at the end.
Pastor Naomi Ingrim said the event was the church’s alternative to Vacation Bible School.
“In lieu of Bible School, we wanted to touch a lot of children and we brainstormed, and we thought, ‘How do we touch community children with the resources we have?’” Ingrim said. “We came up with the idea of teaching them about caring for God’s creatures, and why wouldn’t it be okay to bring in some speakers and bring in all of the children and do it on a rotational basis?”
The first year saw 180 children, she said. Since then, a few of the local day care centers have closed down so numbers have changed, but they still reach out to local children.
“It requires not an awful lot of people support on our end but yet we touch an awful lot of children with a single message of caring for God’s creatures,” Ingrim added.
The event has become highly successful and Ingrim said she doesn’t see the church going back to the typical Vacation Bible School program.
“It’s just such an interesting event, and they remember it,” she said.
Previous years saw presentations from Texas Humane Heroes and Patriot Paws. Last year, Pet Supplies Plus brought a variety of animals to the event including arachnids, reptiles, and snakes, while Carole Zieris brought in Tibetan Spaniel puppies and Bridget, a Havanese AKC champion, to show off tricks for the kids.
This year, Zieris returned with Bailey and Cali, both of the Havanese breed, and a Tibetan Spaniel named Ketu, who was named the #1 Tibetan Spaniel in 2015, as well as an unnamed puppy. Zieris gave kids had the opportunity to write down name suggestions for the puppy and shared information about both breeds and how to care for the dogs.
Other dog owners at the event included Alan White, with WhiteHaven Canine Evaluators; Sarah Rock, with Sit Means Sit Dog Training in Belton; and Rebekah Reed and Shawn Jacobs with Off Leash K9 Training.
White showed off his service dog, Szva, a sable German Shepherd, who helps him with anxiety and is in training to learn how to detect blood sugar changes due to diabetes.
“Back in April, she saved my life when I didn’t even know I was a diabetic,” White told the crowd of children from Handprints Academy Thursday afternoon. “She can smell the changes in the blood sugar coming through my pores. She was able to wake me up so I could get to the phone and call the ambulance to get to the hospital.”
White shared information about the German Shepherd breed and about service dogs in general. He especially cautioned the children about how they need to ask for permission before petting a service dog. When the children lined up to pet each dog, White took Szva’s Service Dog vest off, showing that she was temporarily “off-duty” and could be petted.
Sarah Rock shared information about her pit bull terrier mix, Leela, who is a certified therapy dog and Rock’s personal companion. Leela also performed some tricks and showed off her listening skills by staying on her bed while Rock spoke.
Before the event started, Rock explained more about what Sit Means Sit Dog Training offers, which is specialized obedience and general obedience. They work with aggressive dogs and dogs with high anxiety and hold classes in Waco, Belton and will be holding classes in Killeen soon.
As a therapy dog, Leela goes to career days at elementary schools. This year was Rock and Leela’s first time at the church’s event, but Rock said it allowed her to clear up any misconceptions and stereotypes about Leela’s breed.
“Especially with her being a therapy dog, I get to take her around and go over, ‘This is a typical pit bull,’” Rock said. “She loves kids, she loves other dogs, she loves to play. She gets so excited when we take her to schools and stuff because all she wants to do is interact with the kids. That’s one reason I got her into being a certified therapy dog is so she can do stuff like that, and we can go around.”
Rock said that there aren’t many other pit bulls in their therapy program.
“So, it definitely helps spread the word that they can be good companion dogs and good with kids and other dogs, so that it will help enlighten people that have that fear just based on their history,” Rock added.
Reed and Jacobs talked about each of their dogs, Finn, a Pointer mix, and Sasha, a German Shepherd. Finn and Sasha are both therapy dogs and visit schools, nursing homes and hospitals, “to help lighten the days of people who might be in there,” Reed said.
“We do a lot of education so we do a lot of things like this,” Reed added. “Just trying to educate children on how to socialize with dogs and interact with dogs that they don’t know, and breed awareness as well.”
Off Leash K9 Training specializes in high-level obedience and does anything from basic level obedience to therapy dog training. They also do detection work, Reed said.
Reed and Jacobs shared information about their dogs’ breeds and had them show off tricks. Sasha wore goggles while Finn wore little shoes, and both welcomed pets at the end of the session.