Georgia Shipley, 11, and Olivia Kempker, 7, are spending the dog days of summer vacation helping cats and dogs find happy homes at the Humane Society.
The girls are a part of Pet P.A.L.S., a summer camp held by the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia.
Pet P.A.L.S. stands for Preparing Animals for Love and Shelter, and that is what these children are trying to do. Over the weeklong camp, kids learn about pet responsibility, career paths that involve working with animals and how to train a new pet.
Campers play sensory games that help them better relate to the animals. Through the games, they learn about animal body language and get hands-on experience working with a variety of pets.
"They each get a puppy that they're in charge of for the week," Jen Stillerman, co-director of Pet P.A.L.S. said.
"It helps out with our adoptions, so when the dogs are adopted, they're a little bit more trained and they're socialized with the kids."
Many of the kids would love to take their puppy
mascots home, but campers are encouraged to wait a week before adopting any pets. They instead focus their efforts on encouraging others to adopt a pet by making posters or teaching the puppy new tricks.
"When someone is looking to adopt, this animal is a little more adoptable, it's friendlier, it's clean, they bathe them, they make bandanas, they do everything to kind of prep these animals for adoption," Kelley Uber-Sterner, director of education and volunteer involvement said.
The campers even help teach the animals tricks that will help them to be noticed in the long line of cages. Tricks like looking into a person's eyes and teaching cats to high-five. Uber-Sterner said these tricks help people to connect with the animals.
"In a shelter environment a lot of the animals take three steps back; they're very scared — it's loud, it's noisy — same thing we feel when we walk in but it's magnified times 10 for them," Uber-Sterner said.
"We do a lot of enrichment through the cage, so our animals are engaging guests when they come in."
Meyer Anne Hudson, 11, and Amanda Davis, 9, played with a puppy they named Bently. The girls said their favorite thing about the camp is playing with all of the puppies.
"I've always wanted to come to an animal shelter and I never have, so this is a good experience for me," Meyer Anne said.
Amanda admits she's not as fond of the cats; the girls proudly showed off their scratches. Amanda said she is most excited about working with the puppies.
"We are going to learn how to train a dog with clickers and then we're going to learn how to hold a dog and take care of it," Amanda said.
Many campers enjoy working with the animals so much they can't wait for camp to start next year. During the school year the Humane Society has Pet P.A.L.S. Club meetings once a month, starting in October and through the school year.
"A lot of the kids come back, and they'll even volunteer with their families, They'll be really big advocates for us in the community," Uber-Sterner said.