The Dog Days of Summer Camp

Nothing quite tickles my heart like stories conveying the human animal connection.  Sometimes such stories put a big goofy grin on my face, and sometimes they cause my eyes and nose to become uncontrolled leaky faucets.  Needless to say, I prefer the former to the latter!

The following human-animal bond story was written by my dear friend Kathie Meier and was published in Marin Pets, a blog moderated by the Marin Humane Society.  Between Kathie’s descriptions and her fabulous photos, this story succeeded in putting a big goofy grin on my face!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.


Even though I am many moons past my own summer camp days I look forward each year to volunteering with my animal companions at the Marin Humane Society’s summer camp for children entering first through sixth grades.

For nine weeks on Friday afternoons the Pavilion is filled with the laughter and chatter of excited campers, and the tail wags and kisses of ten fabulous SHARE dogs.  In no time the kids have their eager buddies doing sits, downs, and puppy push-ups and traversing beginning agility equipment.

The real fun begins when the kids “teach” their companion a trick and then perform it.  To the absolute delight of all we’ve watched Mooki, Duncan and Winston zip through legs, Sophie sit upright and wave her paws, Woody shake, Chudleigh play dead, Charlotte play the toy piano with her nose, Tigger, MJ, and Angus run an agility course, Katie dance, Autumn, Kuri and Frisco jump through hoops, Chloe and Mitzi roll over, and Lance balance a treat on his nose and catch it.
This is my 11th year coming to summer camp with my dogs. While the kids have grown and changed over the years, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the magic of the bond of having animals in our lives.  The camp provides the children a wonderful opportunity to spend the week learning about animals of all shapes and sizes and to work 1-on-1 with some very special dogs.

The Marin Humane Society SHARE Program dogs participate in a wide variety of animal-assisted therapy programs including visits to seniors, reading with children through SHARE a Book, and classroom humane education programs throughout Marin.  I know my pup Charlotte would say that paws down the summer camp dog training is her favorite!  No surprise that each year it’s also the favorite activity of the children.

Kathie Meier-


Have you and one of your pets participated in an animal-assisted therapy program?  If so, I would love to hear all about it.

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

8 Responses to “The Dog Days of Summer Camp”

  1. Traci Says:

    Are you aware of any similar programs in the Northeast? If not is there a “share” training program that can be duplicated if I was interested in starting a program?



  2. Jeanne Says:

    I loved this story. We visit a residential youth center for teen girls with emotional & behavioral problems. It is a happy time too there. So glad to hear of another program that realizes the value of dogs in kids lives and putting the child in the role of “teacher.” Thanks for sharing.


  3. Peggy Says:

    We used to take our beloved canine companion and family member, Peach, to an assisted living facility. Although Peach had no “formal’ training as a therapy dog, she would allow the eldery gentleman whom we loved and visited, to pet her to his heart’s content. Peach didn’t care how old these folks were, or if they remembered her from one visit to the next, all that she cared about was giving and receiving love.
    One of my favorite memories of her was when my husband and I and Peach all were standing in the elevator at the assisted living facility. A gent in a wheelchair joined us. Peach was quite a big girl…a Dobie/Shepherd mix, and weighed about 75-80 lbs. This elderly gent took one look at Peach, then looked at us and grinned and said, “Now , that’s a REAL dog. ” Peach just smiled and so did we .

  4. Kathleen Dillon Says:

    Dear Dr. Kay and fellow subscribers to this wonderful blog.

    Here is the link to a story about some Therapy Pets of Oakland CA and about my golden retriever Buddy in particular. Nearly a month ago, we lost him to the cancer described in the article. But we will never lose the wonder of his contribution to our lives and many others.

    With gratitude,

  5. Helene Says:

    My three animal assisted therapy dogs participate in Paws to Read at three local libraries. The kids read to the dogs in 15 minute sessions. It is all for fun so no corrections or sounding out words. It builds the children’s confidence to read out loud. The benefit of the dogs is they’re truly a nonjudgmental audience, They are loving and accepting. If the kids mess up a word, the dogs don’t care. Researchers at the University of California say that kids who read to dogs apparently score higher on reading tests, and researchers say dogs help take the pressure off children learning to read.

    This summer we also did Pet Care talks at a day camp every week for 11 weeks where the children learned what to do if they came across a stray dog and also how to ask to pet an owned dog. They practiced with the therapy dogs.

    We also visit convalescent hospitals and retirement homes.

    The dogs really enjoy going.


  6. Kathie Says:

    Hi Traci – you don’t’ mention where in the Northeast you are but there are many programs through the US. The AKC has a list of some of the organizations – . Darlene Blackman, head of SHARE at MHS might also have some information as she’s been involved in AAT program development for about 20 years. You can reach her here –

    Do let us know what you find out.

    Kathie Meier

  7. Teri Lindsey Says:

    My 4 yr old yellow lab Bella is a therapy dog. The amount of joy she brings to those in need on our many visits is priceless! We visit the library, college during “dead week” (one of our favorite places to visit!) assisted living facilities, the memory unit, among others. To date our most rewarding visits were during the school year in a classroom with 2 fourth grade school children who could barely read. It was truly amazing to see their progress over the course of about 5 months! They just loved reading to Bella and it was touching to see them improve so much! 🙂

  8. Jackie Jurasek Says:

    I was blessed to share 11 years with a wonderful sheltie named Dixie. I had her from a pup and she went everywhere with us. She cheered at the little league baseball games and learned how to give high fives. As she matured out of her puppy years, she became my humane education dog and we visited many schools and educated many children and their teachers. Dixie was a smaller sheltie and could sense when a child was fearful of dogs. She would approach them and then lay down when she sensed they wanted her no closer. Most of those fearful kiddos overcame their fear and touched her which would cause her to gently wag her tail.
    Dixie also went to the local nursing homes along with my 3 children and a variety of critters to brighten the days of the residents. Dixie loved to fetch a tennis ball and would try to “steal” the balls off the legs of the walkers in her audience. She was such a clown….
    We held on to her as long as we could, but congestive heart failure finally overwhelmed her and I had to make that terrible decision to put her down. Being that euthanizing animals is part of what I do and knowing that no one would be kinder than me….I chose to help over the rainbow bridge where she could breathe easier and run free again.
    I look forward to the day when we will be reunited. I still miss her…

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: