"The Top Dogs Are Drug Free"
Since 1993, well over 500,000 American children have been learning a valuable lesson with the help of man's best friend. DAD/DACTM members – police officers and their highly trained K9 partners – have been teaching that lesson. Many of these special dogs were donated to police agencies by DAD/DAC, and members of this organization are encouraged to visit young children in schools with their K9s to deliver a strong anti-drug message that is entertaining as well as educational. The program is called Puppy Patrol.
“This program isn’t just about saying no to drugs and crime,” said Puppy Patrol coordinator Tammy Earley. “It’s about helping kids get a well-rounded image of the police officer and the K9. The officer is a friend in the community, a real person, and we also emphasize that the dog is their friend, too.”
The program portrays the officer as a role model – someone they can consider a friend. After a Puppy Patrol presentation, the children are asked questions about what they learned and some receive T-shirts bearing the DAD/DAC Puppy Patrol logo and its slogan, "The Top Dogs Are Drug Free!" The T-shirt also stresses that “Police Dogs are Your Friends.”
For Randy Cates, benefits of Puppy Patrol are good for the officers, the children and the canines. “I enjoy sharing the experience of exposing new puppies and watching the interaction with the kids,” Cates said. “Not only is it wonderful for the kids, it is an excellent resource for socializing your puppies. Being a member of DAD/DAC gives me the opportunity to talk to children about the negative effects of doing drugs and how it will affect their opportunity to be what ever they want to be in life.”
There are several anti-drug education programs for youth, each with its own merits. The Puppy Patrol program is unique in that it targets pre-school through fifth grade children as the age group of choice. “We believe it is imperative to reach children at this very young and impressionable age to impress upon them the dangers of drug abuse,” Earley noted. “The Puppy Patrol program is an excellent way to reach children, and it is something that children across the country really need. We encourage all K9 officers to get involved with the youth in their communities, and especially encourage team members to participate in the Puppy Patrol program.”
DAD/DAC provides – free of charge – all the materials that are given to the children during the presentation, such as the special certificates, informational pamphlets and stickers. DAD/DAC funds the Puppy Patrol program through fundraising projects and corporate donations. DAD/DAC also is providing something else for children – a lasting, positive memory. “They smile and giggle as the little puppies wag their little tails and love on the children,” he said. “Not only is it a great opportunity for the puppies to be socialized, but it also is a benefit for the children to interact with pets and their other classmates. Some children are very shy and it’s great to see these children open up and share their own stories of their pets with us and other children. Anytime you can bring a smile to a child’s face, it’s a positive thing.”
Cates said that for some children, this is a rare connection with an animal. And for his daughter, it was a learning experience. “My 6-year-old daughter helped me out with my last demonstration at the annual Home Depot kids program,” he said. “She sat inside the kennel with the puppies and made sure that all of the children who visited knew how to hold the puppies. She also made sure that everyone took turns and got the opportunity to hold the pups. There were two boys that were so excited about seeing the puppies that they were there for over an hour! My daughter kept coming out and whispering to me that she thought their time was up. I explained to her that some kids don't have the opportunity to have pets and she should let them enjoy their time with the puppies. She finally accepted that and decided she would let them stay for one more minute! Fortunately for the boys, she didn't have a watch on!”
For more information, contact Tammy Earley at DAD/DAC's home office, 1-888-323-3227 or by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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