‘Pawsitively’ Sousa

Mrs. Lucie’s class present donations to the town shelter.
Mrs. Lucie’s class present donations to the town shelter.

“We are Sousa strong—kind, compassionate and confident Kind: learning to be caring to others Compassionate: Learning to help those around us Confident: Feeling good about ourselves.”
This is the theme of Sousa Elementary School’s character building initiative launched earlier in the school year, and all of those elements came into play when the school held their annual Playthings for Pets holiday toys and treats drive to benefit Town of North Hempstead Shelter dogs.
Since 2003, when the first holiday drive was held by Diana Conway’s fourth grade class, Sousa students have taken part in this service learning project and discovered the many roles beyond taking in homeless dogs that the town shelter plays.
Eight years ago Colleen Lucie embraced the project, and her fourth graders have carried on the tradition ever since, hosting the school-wide drive for doggy toys, treats, rawhides, food, towels and more.
In discussion with a volunteer from The Shelter Connection, the non-profit organization at the shelter, her class learned some of the many reasons pets may end up there, and came to understand the joys and responsibilities of pet ownership by viewing a PowerPoint of Mary Beth Boelts’ picture book Before You Were Mine.
The book is the story of a boy playing with his adopted dog, wondering why such a wonderful companion would ever end up unwanted and homeless. Then, using photos of dogs currently waiting for adoption, the children created posters asking for donations and promoting shelter adoptions.
At the conclusion of the drive, the class was visited by North Hempstead Animal Control Officer Scott Halloran, and, of course, a shelter dog, Scooby, who accepted four overflowing, boxes of donations.
This year the playthings event coincided with a third through fifth grade assembly presented by the Nassau County District Attorney’s office, along with the Town of North Hempstead Animal Shelter, teaching dog bite safety as well as responsible pet ownership and the importance of laws for licensing and leashing your pet.
Reflecting on the experience, Mrs. Lucie’s class came away with a new view on how meaningful their efforts were for our town shelter and homeless pets. Here are some of their thoughts about the event.
“Even though we are little, we can still make a big difference in our community,” and “It was heart-warming to know that we were helping these dogs in need.”
For his part, sweet Scooby enjoyed being an ambassador for shelter dogs in general and senior dogs in particular. Happily, he only got to enjoy the fruits of his Sousa visit for a brief time. Snoopy was recently adopted to a loving, forever home.
For information on dog adoptions, licensing, rabies clinics, humane education presentations and volunteer opportunities visit The Shelter Connection’s website: www.theshelterconnection.org, or call the shelter at 516-869-6311.

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Karen Talley is the former editor of Port Washington News.


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