Written by Charlene Proto
Located at 1 West Owens in North Las Vegas is a facility called The Shade Tree. The mission of The Shade Tree is “to provide safe shelter to homeless and abused women and children in crisis and to offer life-changing services promoting stability, dignity and self-reliance.” This local organization provides a multitude of services and programs to assist the women and children of Southern Nevada to attain self-reliance and escape violent situations. In addition to providing food, shelter, job training and assistance in finding housing this shelter has a unique feature – the women and their children may bring their beloved pets along. In a building adjacent to the main facility is Noah’s Animal House. Here the hamsters, gerbils, birds, dogs and cats that belong to the Shade Tree residents are housed. Children and Moms can visit at all times of the day to walk, pet, or just hold and receive that wonderful comfort that only a favorite family pet can bestow.
In abusive situations a pet is often the object of the abuse as well as the family members. Women who arrive at domestic violence shelters report animal abuse in 85% of their homes. How difficult for a woman or child to leave behind their “best friend” knowing the animal will be mistreated. How difficult to leave behind the one perfect, innocent part of their lives that only brings happiness and comfort. How difficult at the very time they need that furry love and wet nose the very most.
Heaven Can Wait Animal Society has been providing free spay and neuter services to Noah’s Animal House since it opened. A natural development from offering these services was the establishment of Kim Yates’ Humane Education Program at The Shade Tree. Kim is a HCWS board member, Clark County teacher and author of the HCWS Angels for Animals program. In the main building of Shade Tree, the Children’s Activity Center provides educational programs and assistance with learning skills to the children housed there. This summer part of their offerings included “Humane Education”.
On a hot August afternoon the center fills up with lots of children and several moms. They are anxiously waiting for Kim’s class. This is only the fourth week of the program but apparently word has spread that this class is “fun”! Kim comes in smiling and carrying two large gift bags filled with stuff. She distributes raisins and chocolate milk. As they snack she uses the opportunity to talk about what foods are good for people but may be poisonous to dogs. Some of the moms seem surprised at the information as well.
This week they are creating tote bags with cute felt doggie ears, doggie spots, “googlie” eyes and pink fluffy noses. Kim unloads the bags, felt and all the extras for the project. Most of the kids have stuffed dogs with little cardboard dog houses that they fit into. The ones without a dog & house are quickly provided one by Kim. These were a project from another week. They all adore their “doggies” and take very good care of them. The dog houses are decorated with names and even drapes on the windows!
Before the project of the day gets started Kim asks if they would like to hear a story about how man/woman and dog became friends. She reads “The First Dog” to a mostly rapt audience taking time to ask questions and encouraging the children to think about the story. Then the tote bags get decorated with a flurry of felt cutting, glue squeezing and giggles. The moms are helping and some seem as engaged as their offspring. A few seniors sitting in the back of the room offer tips on glue handling and seem to enjoy helping with the younger ones. An older boy who at first acted disinterested is now displaying his tote bag and shouting, “Now that’s what I call ART!” At another table sit three sisters who are dressed beautifully and have matching haircuts. They work quietly and help each other. One of the three is putting a picture of her and her “doggie” into a decorated frame made of Popsicle sticks (another clever project from another class). Her frame has a cute name carefully applied to the top. When asked if that is the name of her “doggie,” she replies solemnly no that it’s her pet bird. He is at Noah’s House and she gets to visit him “every day”! The look on her serious little face tells all – all about how important that visit must be.
The Humane Education Program at The Shade Tree is currently not funded with a grant but will be seeking one if the program continues. Kim Yates provides all the craft supplies, snacks and “doggies”. She developed all the lesson plans and materials. According to Kim it’s her passion. Volunteers are needed for this program and all the wonderful services provided by Heaven Can Wait. Please consider a donation of your time – www.hcws.org.
Filed under: Community, Programs Tagged: | animal rescue, animal welfare, animals, domestic violence, HCWS, Heaven Can Wait, Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, Heaven Can Wait Spay and Neuter Clinic, humane education, pets, The Shade Tree