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PAWS

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Photograph by Rocco Pecoraro

Photograph by Rocco Pecoraro

Photograph by Rocco Pecoraro

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The Hawthorne High School ARCH students had the privilege of having a visit from the Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge, Inc. and the PAWS program. This program, which has taken place at various high schools throughout the state, takes place over a three week process. Week one consists of learning how to meet, greet, and treat a dog. Week two is all about basic obedience training. Week three is all about having fun with games and tricks. The Clarion got to sit in on a visit with the dogs to learn all about this program, how it works, and how it benefits the dogs and students.

The PAWS program has been going on since 2011, giving students a chance to learn skills they could use in the future. For almost seven years they have spread knowledge of a proper skill set with the help of some furry friends. They have targeted two schools in the past six years to try the program out and plan to expand to the point where dogs will be visiting Bergen and Passaic county schools daily. The dogs featured in the lessons are available for adoption or have already been adopted.

The three canines present through the presentation were Corinne, a 9 nine month old pitbull mix, Mabel a chocolate lab, and Annabelle a white chihuahua. The kids got the chance to meet the dogs and practice tricks with them including stay, sit and paw. With the help of Mr. Tom, Ms. Kathy, Ms. Pam and many other instructors, they taught the students the proper way to approach a dog and the right way to pet them which is underneath the chin and across the back . For example they were taught that when a dog shakes, it is shaking off of its stress and anxiety.

The Clarion asked HHS principal, Mr. Daniel LaGrone, a few questions about the program and its importance.

Clarion Reporter: Why bring PAWS to HHS?

Mr. LaGrone: The PAWS program enables our ARCH (Academic – Real Life – Community – Hands On) students to practice communication skills, learn correct techniques and procedures for general pet interaction. It also gives each participant the opportunity to share their personal insights through open communication with RBARI (Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge, Inc.) volunteer trainers.

Clarion Reporter: What should faculty and students get out of this visit?

Mr. LaGrone: Students and staff benefit emotionally from each heart warming visit. It is my hope that RBARI’s program benefits from the additional exposure. Hopefully, this exposure will help unite these adoptable dogs with their forever homes.

Clarion Reporter: Why is it important to help these animals?

Mr. LaGrone: These are all lovable dogs which will make excellent pets given the right circumstances.

 

The Clarion asked these same questions to Ms. Forshay, one of the ARCH Program teachers.

Ms. Forshay: Bringing the PAWS Program to HHS is extremely beneficial for students and dogs alike.  There is much research citing the many benefits of working with dogs. The students will be teaching  the dogs basic commands which help with self-confidence, self-esteem, and language.  The students have already begun to interact with the dogs, and they delight in how the animal responds to their actions. In addition the students will gain experience in group communication and participation. Our ultimate goal is that the students will acquire skills they can transfer to a job in the future. The animals are being desensitized to numerous outside noises and distractions, new buildings, etc. The dogs are being taught social skills with humans of different sizes, race, looks, voices,etc. Bottom line is there are numerous skills that are being taught to both our students and dogs, but sometimes a dog can simply make your day a little bit more fun!

 

Everyone that attended the presentation had a great time. The students interacted well with every single dog. When asked which dog was their favorite, most of them said Mabel, the chocolate lab. Overall, the students had a great time and learned many important skills along the way. Thank you PAWS for coming to HHS and we look forward to seeing your program grow into something great!

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