By Eve Meinhardt/ParaglideMarch 3, 2011
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - First graders at Devers Elementary School got the chance to help some of the animals awaiting new homes at the Fort Bragg Animal Shelter during a learning experience Feb. 17.
The students got to meet Elmer, a dog who has been a long-term resident at the shelter. He had a skin condition that caused him to get an infection across his entire body. Thanks to Mary Ortiz, the manager of the Fort Bragg Animal Shelter, Fort Bragg's veterinary specialists and shelter volunteers, Elmer is on his way to making a full recovery.
Ortiz, veterinarian Capt. Caitlin Rizzo and shelter volunteer, Sgt. Kenneth Williss also brought three-week-old kittens with them to show the students.
They taught the children how to properly approach animals and about playing safely with their dogs or cats. The students had lots of questions and were anxious to share what kinds of animals they had at home, which ranged from dogs and cats to hamsters and snakes.
The students repaid their guests with a large donation of blankets, treats and toys for the shelter's fuzzy residents. Ortiz said she knew that the students were making a donation to the shelter, but was overwhelmed by how much they received.
"This is totally amazing, I honestly wasn't expecting this much," she said. "They have made a huge difference and it's so sweet that the children wanted to do this."
Susie Gutierrez, the first-grade teacher who organized the event along with fellow teachers Beth Kerchmar, Karen McDonald, Evelyn Moore, Cynthia Adams and Lisa Evans, said that the shelter's visit provided the students with the opportunity to apply their learning.
"This has really been a wonderful experience," Gutierrez said. "The children have really enjoyed it and it ties in with some of the things they learn in science class and helps them see the importance of compassion and caring."
The students put their learning into practice as they approached Elmer, holding out their hands so he could sniff them before reaching in to pet him. They all agreed that having Elmer and the kittens come visit them was the most exciting part.
They shouted out their thank yous and said their goodbyes.
"I love you, Elmer," shouted a little girl as Elmer and his friends left the classroom.