Do you have a dog that is calm, well-mannered, and loves kids?
Do you love working with children and teaching them about responsible pet care and empathy for animals?
If yes, then the following volunteer opportunity might be for you! The Winnipeg Humane Society is on the hunt for new Dog Ambassadors to join our See Spot Read (SSR) team starting in the Fall of 2020!
- What does it mean to be a Dog Ambassador?
As a Dog Ambassador, you and your dog will sit with children who struggle with reading, providing encouragement and support when needed. Just by sitting with an animal, children can feel more relaxed, which improves their comprehension of words that they otherwise struggled with in a regular classroom setting.
Our goal with SSR is to provide children with a judgment-free, safe space where they can read to a dog in a fun and supportive environment while also learning about empathy for animals and dog safety!
In the span of an hour, you will sit and read with two different children, one-on-one. This setting allows you to really get to know the children you are paired with; also allowing them to get to know you and your dog! As not all children have the same exposure to dogs and/or pets in their personal lives, SSR offers an incredibly valuable opportunity for children to learn about dog safety, and responsible pet ownership. These are life lessons the children can take with them as they grow, and as a Dog Ambassador, you will lay the foundation for this knowledge! Seeing you interact with your dog and watching your love and compassion for your furry friend is what builds that amazing love for animals.
We sat down with Laura, one of our amazing Dog Ambassadors, to discuss her experiences with SSR. Laura and her dog Tucker joined our team in January, and we wanted to share some of her thoughts on their experiences thus far:
How has volunteering with the program been for you?
Laura: “Volunteering has given me confidence by giving me the chance to try something new and build a real sense of achievement. It allowed me to interact with some very wonderful children that I looked forward to hearing their new stories from them every week. I felt part of something new and exciting; I felt that I was making a difference. Through volunteering I challenged myself to try something different, achieve personal goals, practice using skills and discover hidden talents. Most of all, spending time with these children was fun.”
Would you recommend this program to other volunteers?
Laura: “I would most definitely recommend this program to others. If they are looking to spend some time with their dog and some amazing kids it is worth checking out.”
What is the best part about volunteering with the See Spot Read Program?
Laura: “To see the kids get very excited when they come in and see Tucker. They don’t even say hi to me they just run over to Tucker and give him a hug.
I love that I have an opportunity to sit and read with my dog Tucker.
To witness the progress these children have made in their reading is amazing. The confidence they have gained, and how they feel comfortable telling stories and interacting with Tucker and I is amazing. Seeing them come out of their safe place and the smiles on their faces is the most rewarding thing I have experienced.”
How has volunteering been for your dog?
Laura: “Tucker has anxiety issues. When he is just chilling at home, he gets very anxious. When he has to work, he can focus and he listens better, and doesn’t show his anxiety because his mind is busy. So, for him this kind of thing is very helpful. When he is done, he goes home and sleeps because he is now relaxed.”
Would you continue volunteering with the program?
Laura: “Just tell me where and when and I’ll be there.”
Do you think this program has made a positive impact on children’s reading level?
Laura: “It is amazing the improvement I’ve observed from one week to the next. Each week they get more comfortable and relaxed. I am very proud at how well their reading skills have improved.”
- So, how do you become a Dog Ambassador?
The process of becoming a Dog Ambassador starts with an online application, followed by a phone interview. Before a Dog Ambassador can join the SSR program, all dogs must be assessed by our Animal Behaviour Team. Due to the nature of our programs and the exposure to children, each dog must be assessed for temperament and reactivity in different situations. Our Team will typically handle the dogs tail, paws, and ears, and then will simulate a classroom setting by making lots of noise and creating a “crowded” environment. Again, just to check the dogs reactivity to unusual environments and ensure the safety of children participating in our program.
After your dog is approved by our Animal Behaviour Team, there will be a criminal record check and child abuse registry check. You will do Volunteer Orientation and official training. Then the excitement begins! Both you and your dog can participate in See Spot Read, school presentations, become a special guest at our spring/summer Kids Camps, visit care homes, and/or other community events! By becoming a Dog Ambassador, you can help children in our community better understand and appreciate animals, while leaving lasting memories with them forever.
- Are you ready to become a Dog Ambassador?
Dog Ambassadors play a vital role within the Education Department here at the WHS. Our See Spot Read program just wouldn’t be possible without the amazing support and hard work of our incredible volunteers.
In appreciation for all new and returning Dog Ambassadors, we are excited to hand out a WHS Swag Bag filled with: a leash, bandana, dog harness, lanyard, and T-shirt. We are also pleased to announce a new $100 honorarium for every 10-week SSR session you participate in!
If you and your dog would like to join our team, please contact the WHS Education Department at 204-982-2046 or firstname.lastname@example.org.