Friday, April 16, 2010

Chica the Chihuahua

We are teaching at a school this week in North Hollywood that holds a special place in my heart. This school taught me a year ago that what we do at Paws and Learn Humane Education truly makes a difference - in the lives of the children we teach and in the lives of the animals we will never see. Below is the story of Chica the Chihuahua:

I changed the life of a dog named Chica and I've never even met her. I was teaching a 2nd grade class Dog Bite Prevention when I first learned of Chica. This presentation starts by getting the kids to think about things our pets need that we need as well (food, water, exercise, doctor, love). We then move into feelings that we share with our pets (happy, sad, mad, scared). I ask the class "if our pets have the same feelings that we do, is it ever okay to hit an animal?" At this point, the whole class shouts "no" and I move into Dog Bite Prevention. This particular morning, a boy in the front row interrupted me. "Especially if you're trying to potty train them." Very astute for a 2nd grader. After agreeing with him, I asked him what he does with his dog. "When Chica starts to go, we clap our hands and say 'AH!' like a buzzer. She stops. We scoop her up, rush her out back and put her on the grass. When she goes potty, we say 'Good girl, Chica! You're such a good girl!' and Chica does a little happy dance." I was blown away that this was coming out of a 2nd grader. "That's very smart," I told him, impressed. "Who taught you that?" "You were in my sister's 5th grade class last week. She told you that Chica always goes potty in the house and my dad spanks her until she rolls over." I then remembered Chica and the pain in his sister's eyes as she told the class how sad it made her when their dad hit the chihuahua. For two years her father had been abusing her and for two years she continued to go to the bathroom in the house. "...because hitting an animal doesn't teach them anything except that you're a mean, painful person to spend time with." Desperate to ease her pain and anxious to help poor Chica, I instructed his sister the proper way of housebreaking. SHOW her where to go and praise her when she goes there. She didn't just listen, she went home and taught her family. "How is Chica doing?" I asked. "She hasn't gone to the bathroom inside since last Saturday. My dad said she must have finally learned her lesson, but my mom says it's because of what you taught my sister." Four days without being hit so hard she rolled over. Kids have the power to change the world, one chihuahua at a time!

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