Northern Dogs: Planning and Teaching Kids About Animal Welfare
This post was filed by Jan Hannah, the International Fund for Animal Welfare Northern Dogs team leader in Canada.
How cool is it to go north in January?! I think it’s way cool (actually, way cold). And so did Ted, owner/pilot of Cloud Nine Rescue Flights who flew us there, Sue, my colleague at IFAW, and Ann -- who runs a dog program (Friends of Animush) and volunteered for Northern Dogs in the spring. We rendezvoused at the Buttonville airport for the 5 hour flight that otherwise would have taken about 20 hours to drive. And let it be known, I would never drive that far north in January! Sue and Ted brought their warm gear to walk the streets counting dogs. Ann brought her dog Dallas (along with her patience and teaching abilities) to go into all the elementary classrooms. I brought my trusty meeting note book and ideas for planning the upcoming year.
The northern landscape never ceases to amaze me from the air. It’s land and water… and not necessarily in that order. It’s vast and it’s Canada. We are very very lucky. We arrived just as the sun was going down but Ted immediately put us to work getting the plane ready for a long, cold night (see photo of sleeping bags). We walked from the airport to the lodge and as we walked, all the resident dogs came down to greet Dallas. I cannot adequately describe just how well adjusted and real these dogs are. I keep telling the community members, your dogs are fantastic! Awesome, interesting, interactive, smart. I could go on and on. Unless tied up, they make their choices about what to do and who they want to do it with. Their dog communication is exceptional because when you live in a communal dog society you learn to get along!
Up and at ‘em the next morning, Ann and Dallas zoomed off to the school for class after class of kids. The intent is to help children understand how to care for dogs, how to act safely around dogs and how to live compassionately with them. Teach the kids, reach the parents. Sue and Ted bundled up and took off to count dogs. Counting and cataloguing actually. Were the dogs that greeted them pups, teenagers, or adults? Were they contained behind a fence, tied, on the street, on the street, did they have tags and/or collar, and what was their overall body condition like? FYI. Pens don’t work at minus 30 and neither do camera shutters! I asked Sue if she could describe the dogs in one word, what it be…. Happy and healthy she said. Then she qualified with “some were scared and some could be healthier, but in general, happy, healthy and friendly”. That is what the Northern Dog Project works to achieve. We want to see those dogs that we saw on that cold January day again when we take the clinic in the spring and then again in the fall. I cross my fingers that we will.