In Melbourne, Florida the animal shelters are overflowing with pets in need of a loving home. Too often animals are overlooked for adoption because of preexisting behavioral issues. Virginia Hamilton saw an opportunity to engage her diverse group of students in a meaningful service project that would benefit these animals, as well as the students. Canine Commandos recognized the need to find a unique way to help find homes for the dogs and cats stranded in the overpopulated shelters. The Commandos realized pets were being passed up because they lacked the training pet owners desired. Adopters may overlook dogs that are jumping at the cages or barking uncontrollably, deeming them unfit for adoption. This is where the Commandos step in.
After studying up on some basic animal training techniques, Virginia and her students took to the animal shelters of Melbourne to lend their services. Their methods aim at changing behaviors through daily training sessions to increase their likelihood of being adopted. They start with the basics, “Sit” and “Stay”, but then move on to more intermediate training, which includes a socialization process for cats! The students went on to make a training video for their website so pet owners could continue the training process. Through grants and donations Canine Commandos has members from 18 schools in the area, allowing for over 250 gifted and at-risk students to participate in the daily training sessions. Virginia Hamilton has committed her life to teaching but says Canine Commandos “teaches my students to care about all living beings and our environment because one day soon, I will be looking to these students as my leaders and if I can help one student put others needs before theirs then I feel I have made a difference.” Throughout her work she has seen firsthand the impact that service work has on students. Virginia firmly believes students engaged in service work have a boosted self-esteem and have a deeper understanding of the importance of kindness. Students grow very attached to the animals and are sad to see them go, but they feel much better when they realize they just saved an animal’s life. The Canine Commando’s ultimate goal is to get all animals adopted in to loving homes, but also to spread the word to other schools looking to involve their students in the community. Connecting young adults to the community is vital, and Canine Commandos encourages all youths to find a cause they are passionate about. Please lend your support to Canine Commandos and learn how you can be a successful pet owner.