Friday, February 15, 2008

An extra-special Valentine’s Day

Posted by UAN Program Coordinator Cristina Stoyle

Yesterday I took a Valentine’s Day trip to Camp Reno to see how the Gabbs dogs were doing. As UAN’s program coordinator, I manage all the logistics for the EARS workshops where we train new volunteers. As a result, I’m very familiar with “how it begins” for our volunteers, but I’ve never participated in a deployment. Having the opportunity to go to Reno and see our wonderful volunteers in action was great because it helped me to “complete the circle” of what it means to be an EARS volunteer.

When I arrived, EARS volunteers Jan Gates and Caryn Franson were already working with the dogs, trying to get them used to leashes—things they never saw before coming to Camp Reno. I was told that a few of the dogs have successfully gone on walks in the past couple of days! I was impressed at this incredible progress, considering how little human contact these dogs received until a very short time ago. Kumquat, pictured here with Jan, tolerated the leash being put on, but was not up to being walked yet, so Jan left the leash on and just comforted Kumquat so she would get used to the sensation of wearing leash on. It’s a slow process, but with time each of the dogs will learn that the leash means a good thing—going outside for a walk!

As Jan and Caryn introduced me to the 26 dogs still in UAN’s care, I was amazed at how well they knew each one, including each of their quirks. But, as I learned by the end of the day, you quickly pick up on each dog’s personality after spending a little quality time with them.

One of my favorite duos was Daisy and Polly. Nervous Daisy would pace around her cage every time someone came near while Polly cautiously watched from the safety of her crate. But as soon as someone came in with food they quickly perked up, as you can see in this picture of the two with Caryn. When I sat with them later, Polly showed me that if I wasn’t quick enough with the treats she was not shy about taking them herself!

Later in the day, Caryn encouraged me to visit a gorgeous yellow dog named Arnie, telling me that if I brought treats he would gently take them from my outstretched hand then move his muzzle up to let me scratch his chin. Needless to say, I quickly fell in love with sweet Arnie as he drifted to sleep while I scratched the scruff of his neck. Don’t tell my resident pup Cooper, but yesterday Arnie was my very special Valentine!

It was a long, but rewarding day, and even after cleaning dishes, I was happy I made my way over the mountains to give a little extra Valentine’s Day love to the Gabbs dogs. Thank you to the volunteers who also spent Valentine’s Day with the dogs: Jan, Caryn, Lloyd Strong, and Jane Hollingsworth (cleaning the dishes with me in the picture). The dedication and hard work of our EARS volunteers never ceases to amaze me, and yesterday was no exception!

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