By KAILEY ALLEN
I vividly remember the sights and sounds as I visited the adoption floor at Charleston Animal Society for the first time: loud barking echoes, eyes begging for attention, and
paws scratching the kennel walls that separated them from me. At this point, I was already aware of the vital role shelters played in their communities, but I still didn’t understand just how important these facilities were. A large part of what helped me fully realize their impact was the encouragement I received from the Humane Education Department.
This program at Charleston Animal Society is entirely dedicated to teaching youth about compassion and raising the next generation of animal advocates. The department’s motto is “making humanitarians one child at a time,” and I believe it lives up to that and more.
MY “AHA” MOMENT
From others I have spoken to, I have come to the conclusion that many people who work in rescue come to do so because of specific “aha” moments, interactions, or conversations they have had. Although I have always enjoyed the shelter environment, I am no exception to this. My journey through Humane Education all started with a dog named Max.
There stood this stocky, middle-aged mutt cowering in the back of his kennel, growling. He would not have been the first choice of many people, let alone most children, and still, I found myself completely mesmerized by the stand-offish pooch. Tension radiated from his whole body. His hard stare would soften any time he took a step, hesitating before every move. All of the sudden, I realized that he was insecure. He was so unsure of himself that he was looking for permission to move. I had never doubted animals’ ability to feel and express complex emotions, but here I saw proof of everything I wanted to believe. From that day forward, I was hooked. I knew I had to dig deeper and learn more. Of course, I turned to education at the shelter to take me further.
GETTING HOOKED ON HUMANE ED
My time in the Humane Education department began with the Humane Heroes program. This was where I started building my relationship with Humane Education Director Heather Grogan. Throughout the years, I quickly became a sponge soaking up every amount of information I could learn from her, Chief Education Officer De Daltorio and Humane Education Manager Kylie Wiest.
I moved on from the first experience to Animal Advocates and Teen Club, each requiring a year of dedication. From fundraising and cleaning litter boxes to shadowing the shelter veterinarians, I loved every second and was anxious to become an independent volunteer when my training was complete. I had found my place, my people and most of all, my purpose.
Reflecting back, my time with the animals was addictive. Whether it was learning
to live in the moment, trusting each other when others had let us down, or always being ready for affection and play, I realized I needed them as much as they needed me. All throughout these moments of reflection and realization, these three amazing women were there to guide and shape my path with a humane education program that has hosted national conferences and taught other shelters across the country how to reach more children.
SHAPING MY FUTURE
Because of the education, I received through Charleston Animal Society, I have been able to pursue career goals that I never knew were possible. I am now an Interdisciplinary Self-Design major at Appalachian State University, pursuing my unique degree in Animal Health, Behavior, and the Human-Animal Bond. I plan to take this degree through veterinary school, with a goal of becoming one of the 80 board-certified Veterinary Behaviorists in the world.
I want to help animals coming into shelter systems with psychological damage in new, innovative ways while supporting the core values of rescue. Without the entirety of the Humane Education Division, including Heather, De, and Kylie, I never would have found my passion. I owe much of who I am today to this shelter and its wonderful staff. No matter what I do or where I go, I will always have a home at Charleston Animal Society.