Editor’s Note: I met Virginia Hamilton at a pet event in May and she asked if this story would be of interest to our readers here in South Florida and I assured her it would be. My hope is that one of our educators and animal lover readers will be inspired by this program to recreate something similar in our own schools because it really is a wonderful program for everyone, including the dogs and cats who are involved.
Canine Commandos is celebrating their 15th year training basic commands to shelter dogs helping find their new fur-ever homes.
Four hundred students in Brevard County, Florida (26 schools, our largest ever) impact three shelters with a 69% success rate of adoption. Just this past school year alone, the Commandos worked with 2500 dogs (this also includes inside training and being read to) and 2000 cats (socializing and playing)! The Commandos speak with the public as new pet parents watch the training in action. We were jumping for joy as Sebastian was adopted right out of our hands! We submit photos and videos on Facebook as we believe this helps tremendously with adoption as it did for Sebastian.
Canine Commandos builds student confidence and self-esteem.
The students share the achievements of the dogs and answer questions for the new pet parents. People are drawn to stories of children and animals, especially when they are involved with a noble cause. Parental involvement and certified trainers help improve the success of the program and maintain safety and integrity.
Read this letter from a parent sent to Mrs. Hamilton. “Since the animal shelter has become a no-kill facility due to the fantastic work of Sheriff Wayne Ivey and his team, there is an incredible air of professionalism and treatment of the dogs and cats waiting for adoption. The animals have adopted into forever homes thanks in part to the efforts and devotion of Mrs. Virginia Hamilton and her students! My great-niece, a student of Mrs. Hamilton’s, and I have looked forward to fifth grade to qualify for the Canine Commandos. I am so impressed with the many learning opportunities this brings to the students. Advanced planning and preparation of the dog trips and treats, working together in teams to train the dogs, following instructions of the teacher and dog trainer, and seeing first-hand the results of mishandling one of God’s creations. I applaud Mrs. Hamilton, her students, and Indialantic Elementary School for giving our future leaders this unique opportunity.”
The program is very fortunate to have teachers involved who love animals and agree the Commandos is beneficial for the students. Working with 26 schools, and growing, making a difference in our community is such a beautiful experience for our kids and animals. Victories are celebrated together at the end of every school year with an Expo.
Mrs. Hamilton loves what she does and loves to share what she has learned with other teachers and professionals looking to exchange ideas. Professional Learning Communities meet and offer new teacher in-services and mentorships for peer collaboration. Teachers can “shadow” the trainers and observe the students’ work on their activities and projects. The goal is that teachers leave with a sense of direction, ideas, lessons, and materials. Canine Commandos continue to make a difference with children, families, colleagues, and shelter animals. We “Do it for the Dogs…cats, too!”
If you’d like more information about the Canine Commandos program, please visit their website at www.CanineCommandos.org