More than 25 members of Clearview Regional High School’s National Art Honor Society made a visit to Homeward Bound Animal Shelter (formerly Camden County Animal Shelter) a few days before Christmas to read to dogs.
Clearview’s local chapter dedicates itself to promoting art outside the classroom. Even though students take part in competitions and visit art museums, they also try to work with community and local organizations such as the shelter. Although non-art related activities aren’t typical, the society saw the shelter visit as another chance to give back to the community.
Students read writing that ranged from “Sports Illustrated” to “Lord of the Rings.” But since the animals don’t know the difference between a touchdown and a magic ring, the group had no restrictions on what to read. The goal of the initiative, said the students’ co-advisor, was to provide a comforting, human voice for the animals.
“It’s kind of sad to see the dogs in that environment,” said Dennis Weaver — also an art teacher at Clearview — whose wife is involved in the shelter.
“Just to have a little bit of time where they can have a human talking to them I think is worth it.”
Since Homeward Bound is a no-kill shelter, it keeps animals for as long as it takes them to get a home, often a very long time, according to Weaver. The reading initiative is a way for those same animals to see humans, hear their voices and get more comfortable with their presence.
The group spent two hours at the shelter, sitting in front of the cages with yoga mats. Some of the dogs sat and listened carefully as students read their books, while others were more of a challenge.
Students were given a quick lesson from volunteers at the shelter on how to respond to different canine behaviors.
With the success of its first visit, the honor society plans to take a trip to the shelter at least once a month for the rest of the school year, continuing the reading initiative and adding an art activity, according to Weaver.
“Every school is different,” he noted. “We just happen to have this year a bunch of kids that are really interested in helping out in the community.
“It really was something that the people at the shelter appreciated and I would like to think the animals enjoyed it as well.”