Most kids spend Sunday afternoons in front of a TV or perhaps playing video games, but for one group of young people, Sundays mean an afternoon at the Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter, helping homeless dogs find their way out of the shelter and into a permanent home.
Irisa is one of those dogs. She enjoys the attention she gets from volunteer Jessie Ventimiglia, who has worked with her for the past couple of months patiently teaching her to walk on a leash, sit, and follow other basic commands. Irisa has responded well to the training, and to the attention she gets from Jessie.
“I love working with the different personalities of dogs,” said Ventimiglia, who has volunteered with her mother at the shelter for the past five years. “Irisa was scared of everything at first, but slowly but surely we’re getting there. She’ll be a very gentle, loving, quiet dog for whoever adopts her; I’ve never even heard her bark.”
Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter operations manager Danielle Sousley Morton is amazed at what volunteers like Ventimiglia have been able to achieve.
“This program has been a godsend for dogs like Irisa,” Morton said. “She was shy and so afraid when she was brought in, and her prospects for adoption were slim, but now she walks on a leash, sits and focuses so well during these classes, it’s just amazing what taking a little bit of time with them can do.”
There are eight dogs currently undergoing weekly training with Madison County 4-H Club members and other volunteers under the direction of Fran Klimek, of Pawsitive K-9 Training, in Comer.
Klimek moved to Comer about nine years ago. She volunteered for a time as a foster home with a local dog rescue and said she noticed that each dog she took into her home “had issues” of some type.
Pictured are members of Madison County 4-H and volunteers with Pawsitive K-9 Training who work with a group of MOAS dogs each week (L-R): Tara Lee Runyan (with Shiloh), Hanna Klimek (with Queenie), Russ Adams, Clays Adams, Alyssa Goldman, Kaylie Goldman, Jessie Ventimiglia (with Irisa), Madison Sosebee and Katie Ingram. Not pictured are Chase Goldman, Parker Varnadoe and Leah Scarborough. Margie Richards/staff
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