Educating the Dog Owners of Tomorrow

I was recently asked by my daughter’s first grade teacher if I would be interested in bringing my dogs (two Rhodesian Ridgebacks) into the class for a visit. I, without a doubt, agreed. I absolutely love talking to young kids about dog care and what I do with respect to being a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT). Rumor spread quickly that I would be coming to the school with the dogs and so I was asked if I would also talk to two kindergarten classes as well. I have to say I enjoyed myself immensely. The smiles that arose on the faces of all the kids was an image I hope to never forget.

For some kids this was their first interaction with a dog. You could tell right off the bat those kids who already had dogs at home and those that were a little apprehensive. My hope through this talk was to give some added knowledge to those students who already had pets at home and to introduce those without, to the love that I enjoy on a daily basis. My dogs are very relaxed and enjoyed themselves very much. How often does a dog who loves attention get to have thirty little hands petting them at the same time?

In all of the three classes we had the kids sit in a big circle, we initially started talking about what to do when encountered by a strange dog on the loose. This is known as “be a tree”. Imagine yourself as a tree and your arms are the branches and your feet are the roots. So we talked about standing still, planting your roots, hold in your branches and watch your roots grow. Standing still giving the dog nothing interesting to bother with and that we should also not make eye contact with the dog until either the dog walks away or an adult comes to help you. We also talked about how you NEVER want to run away as the dog will see this as a game and begin to chase them.

We discussed how to approach a friendly dog (once you have asked permission from the owner). The best way to do this is to hold your hand out flat for the dog to smell and once the dog has smelled you it knows not to be afraid of you. I then walked my older dog Lola around the circle to give her a chance to smell all the little kids and then they were allowed to pet her freely.

We discussed things that we need to do at home to take care of our pets (feed them, walk them, brush their teeth and fur, but most importantly to LOVE them). Next I demonstrated how I brush Lola’s teeth and coat when we are at home.

Our next topic of conversation was what I do when I go to work every day as a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) at The College Manor Veterinary Hospital. The RVT is the doggie or kitty “nurse” to their pets when they come to the veterinary clinic. We talked about how I assist the veterinarian with surgery, physical exams, dentistry, etc., and I showed them some of the things I occasionally have to wear while I’m at work such as a bouffant to cover my hair, a face mask during surgeries and my ever trusty stethoscope for monitoring patients heart rates. Then the fun began.

I had brought a couple of stethoscopes with me, so I had the teachers let the kids listen to their own hearts and I helped them listen to Lola’s heart. You can always tell when they hear the heartbeat for the first time, there are grins on everyone’s faces.

I also brought a few interesting radiographs (xrays) for them to look at, one in particular that is always a fan favorite. It was a lateral x-ray of a dog’s abdomen which contained 10 puppies. They all had a chance to look at the x-ray then I asked them what they saw. There were some very interesting answers, some saw the spine, some said a belly, but no one guessed the puppies. They were so happy to look at the radiograph again and see those puppies.

All in all, it was a great day! The dogs had a great time and were exhausted from their visit to the school. I had a great time sharing some of my animal knowledge with the pet owners of tomorrow. After speaking with the teachers at a later date, apparently the dogs were all the kids could talk about for the remainder of the day. I also noticed the next time I went into the school to volunteer, that the kindergarten class had made a poster with pictures of myself and the dogs in the classroom. I love what I do, but I love it EVEN MORE when I get to share it with the youth of today.

Written by: Suzanne Niel, RVT