The two organizations profiled this time have one phenomenal lady in common. Ruie Gibson is a name you won't often see in the news, but she is the Advisor for the Fort Leavenworth Human Animal Bond (HAB) program, and the energy behind the Waggin' Tails Dog Park in Leavenworth. Ruie is a great lady, a true humanitarian in the best sense of the word. People AND animals love her, but Ruie wouldn't like too much attention, so this piece will focus on what HAB does and what the Dog Park offers.
Fort Leavenworth Human Animal Bond (HAB) is a recognized installation organization on Fort Leavenworth. There are similar programs at a few other Department of Defense installations across the U.S., but what makes this HAB different is their reach. They go nearly anywhere! Volunteer pet owners take their pets to visit school children in classrooms and libraries, developmentally disabled adults, behavioral health patients, veterans in the local Domiciliary, short and long-term care patients, rehab center residents, and elders in retirement communities, assisted living, and even end-of-life care. HAB also visits patients and care-givers at Munson Army Health Center on Fort Leavenworth twice a month. They do this because these owners know the comfort, pleasure, entertainment, and sometimes flat out hilarity of sharing life with pets. The visits that HAB does bring a little levity to any situation, a lot of unconditional love, permission to share a touch, and very often draws people out who otherwise are isolated from the world around them. Many times, people who haven't talked or smiled for weeks will brighten simply at the sight of these HAB pets. With or without a touch, they begin to talk about pets they had when they were younger, or people they've loved. It's just magic. Even if a person doesn't want to directly interact with the pets, HAB-sters (as the members call themselves) know that everyone will be talking about the visit after they leave, many with the first smiles they've enjoyed in a long time.
It's easy to become a HAB-ster. All the details for signing up are at http://www.ftleavenworthhab.org You just have to have a couple of hours a month (though you CAN do more) and have a pet dog or cat or domestic rabbit that likes to visit with people in a variety of situations. Each pet is evaluated for temperament by a veterinarian, and certified healthy twice a year. Some pets do fine in classrooms, libraries and group visits, others do better with the more individual visits at care facilities. Both are needed and welcome. Some visits are during the workday/week, some are in the evenings, some are on weekends. HAB also participates in various pet events throughout the year in Leavenworth County. HAB has a facebook page http://www.facebook.com/humananimalbond, or you can contact them through the website.
(HAB is the first volunteer venue I explored back in the fall of 2006 when I was near retirement from the Army and investigating ways to become involved in the local animal community. I made some GREAT friends in HAB, friends that I treasure, trust, and rely on today. You won't meet a better bunch of PEOPLE and pets than those in HAB.)
Waggin' Tails Dog Park provides an off-leash exercise and socialization venue for dogs of all sizes, convenient for both Leavenworth and Lansing residents, at the north-west corner of the Eisenhower VA Medical Center campus. The grounds belong to the City of Leavenworth, but the fences, fountains, signs and benches are there because of the Friends of the Dog Park, who worked for several years to raise the money to give this wonderful gift to the community. There are 4 acres on the large dog side, and 2 acres on the small dog side, fenced, shaded, and with lots of grass! Dogs should be current on vaccinations and not aggressive. No dogs in heat, no puppies under 4 months of age. PEOPLE are responsible for the actions of their pets, to include picking up after them. The park is free to use, open from dawn til dusk daily. Food, treats and glass are not to be brought into the off-leash areas. Children should be closely supervised and controlled. Learn more about the park at http://www.facebook.com/waggintailslvndogpark or http://www.leavenworthdogpark.org or better yet, take your best friend to the park and see what great people and pets you'll meet!
Reminder to anyone working with pets in Leavenworth County -- we'd LOVE to include information about your business, service, or interest in the Pet Post. Just drop a note to LvnCoHS@live.com.
Crystal Swann Blackdeer, President, Leavenworth County Humane Society, Inc.