The sixth grade has decided upon the theme of animal rights for their yearlong service learning project. Yesterday, we wrapped up our second guest speaker presentation with a visit from Jody Chiquoine, owner and operator of Fitter Critters ‘Aqua Paws.’ Fitter Critters is a physical rehabilitation and indoor aquatic center with programs for dogs, located in Lee. Jody also volunteers for the rescue organization Northeast Pyr Rescue, an all-volunteer non-profit dedicated to providing compassionate, coordinated and comprehensive rescue services for Great Pyrenees dogs throughout the Northeast.
Jody spoke to the class for over an hour about the work she does, explaining how and, most importantly, why she has dedicated so much time and energy to the well-being of dogs in need. She not only informed us of the day-to-day reality of what she and the Northeast Pyr Rescue organization do, but she also spoke to greater life-lessons, such as the importance of making responsible choices when it comes to adopting a pet, the importance of spaying and neutering, as well as the different types of breeders. Her take-home message was this: Remember that every breed of dog was bred do something specific, whether it is herding animals, hunting, etc. It is our responsibility to be educated and select the right kind of dog for our lifestyle and our interests. The adoption of a dog is the choice of a new family member for the entire life of that animal, so it should not be done lightly. It’s a different kind of homework than what the sixth grade is used to!
I think I can speak for Mr. Oakes and the students when I say that we all learned a lot from Jody. It was a great full-circle tie-in to our theme of animal rights, brought home to us with photos of Oscar, Mr. and Mrs. Oakes’ Great Pyrenees, who was rescued by Jody and Northeast Pyr Rescue.
In December, we hosted our first guest speaker, Jerry, a local horse rescuer from Rocking R Farm in Pittsfield. I made Jerry’s acquaintance, as my parents live just up the street from Rocking R Farm. I love to walk down to the farm with my children and visit the horses. Jerry spoke to the class about her lifelong mission to rescue and care for horses. She has loved horses since she was a little girl, and now, 60 years later, she has many inspiring stories that she shared with the students. It was an eye-opening presentation from a passionate and lively, self-proclaimed ‘horse warrior.’ To date, Jerry has saved dozens of horses from slaughter. Her mission has been focused on wild mustangs from the Midwest that are being rounded up and taken off of government lands and shipped to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada. She spoke to us of the nationwide rescue group, of which she is a member, and how she has come to save the lives of these horses that were destined for slaughter. Not only did she speak of her role in rescuing these wild horses, she also told us about how she has helped neglected and abused horses and race horses, as well. Jerry works full-time as a local healthcare provider, on the overnight shift, so that she can care for her horses during the day. Jerry is a great example of the real change one person can make through dedication and passion. We hope to visit Rocking R Farm this spring to see Jerry in action and meet her family of mustang horses.
Our two guest speakers helped to provide inspiration and real-life examples of people who dedicate their lives to the well-being of animals. They showed us the difference that one individual can make when she puts her mind to it.
Stay tuned for more information about the project our class has been planning!
Madame Daire & Mr. Oakes