On a recent afternoon, I watched a group of second graders draw my beautiful, longed-haired, tortoiseshell cat Bellina. This was part of “Model Animal,” a project organized by ArtforAnimals.
It was a unique way to bring humane education into the classroom and the curriculum. I told the story about finding Bellina as a stray, and of course it led to talking about how animals have similar needs to ours, what to do if you find an animal, and stories about the children’s pets — and their own lives. I am following up by arranging spay and neuter services to those who were so excited about the new kittens in their families. In my own classroom, students wrote a biography of Bellina in Spanish.
Throughout the day, several rescued dogs were also brought in and sat as they were painted by students of various age levels, as Art Club was open to anyone who wanted to participate. Last spring we visited an equine sanctuary. Each year the end result has been telling, touching, and inspiring.
The empathy all the children had for these formerly neglected, abused, or homeless animals was palpable. The second graders, normally a very energetic group, remained calm to pacify Bellina. While leaving, they lined up quietly to gently kiss her goodbye, and when I see them in the halls now, they always ask about her. The dogs are still remembered fondly as well.
We all know animals have countless endearing qualities, not the least of which is the ability to draw diverse people together. Many of these students are not friendly with each other, but as they bonded with their models, they bonded with each other. The school atmosphere was different that day.
Watch a group stop on the road to rescue a turtle, help a cat in a tree, or enjoy the antics of dogs in a park. Look at stories in our e-mails, television, or newspapers — all attract a wide variety of people united by a common interest. We are inundated by reports of animal cruelty, yet we are surrounded by people who care.
The challenge is to educate “animal lovers” about the big issues, unite them, and use this energy as a force to make a difference — in our everyday lives and in our laws. This was one of the most uplifting parts of Animal Advocacy Day — like Model Animal, all kinds of people were drawn together, and the power to make changes for all kinds of creatures was awesome.
As always, for the animals,
New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XXV, No.1, Spring/Summer 2011.