By Amber Sandhu of the Redding Record Searchlight
It was a day full of happy and sad tears at Haven Humane Society animal shelter, as 17 kids said goodbye to the dogs they spent two weeks training at Camp Love-A-Pet.
The camp kids spent their time teaching dogs basic skills such as walking with a loose leash, commands, and a few tricks. And at Saturday morning's graduation ceremony, where nine of the adopted pups were handed off to new families, the kids and the dogs got to show off the new skills.
For 13-year-old Clara Kelley, who marked her third year at camp, it was a welcomed task.
"This is the best camp I've ever been to," she said. "I get to make a difference in the community."
Clara was paired with Sky, a gray pit bull terrier mix.
"She gives the best cuddles and she's so sweet," she said about Sky. "And I'm so happy she's going home."
Sky found her "forever home" with Nancy Bevans, who adopted Sky after seeing her on a television program.
"I said to myself 'I think that might be my dog right there'," Bevans said.
Haven Humane's camp has been held since 2006, and each of the camp kids take training very seriously, Haven Humane CEO Mark Storrey said.
"This is our future," Storrey said pointing to the kids. "And we want our future to be good with animals."
Storrey said dogs are chosen for camp based on their temperament, but they're then paired off randomly with the campers.
"It's always the smallest little girl with a big-head pit bull," he said about the pairing.
And that's what exactly happened with Lexi Davainis, 10, who was paired with 2-year-old Frankie, an 80-pound black pit bull terrier mix.
"I was afraid of him at first," she said about Frankie. "When he gets out of the kennel, he's really crazy, but then he calms down."
But the day of the ceremony, she said she noticed that Frankie was calmer coming out of the kennel, a big improvement for him.
Unfortunately for Frankie, he still hasn't been adopted. But Lexi said even though she's sad to leave Frankie, she plans on coming back to see him, as a shelter volunteer.
After the ceremony, the new families united with their pets and readied to take them home. For the eight dogs awaiting adoption, trainers and volunteers used the time to tell the attendees about each of the dogs' qualities.
Cindy Wilborn, a Haven Humane volunteer who filled in at the ceremony for one of the kids who couldn't attend, talked about Johnny, a 7-month-old hound. Johnny came in to the shelter with a rattlesnake bite that affected his snout and neck area, and then got kennel cough while at the shelter. He then ended up having an altercation with another dog, and had his paw nail ripped.
But at the ceremony, Johnny trotted down the graduation aisle with Wilborn, to show off how well he walked with a loose leash. As he approached the end of the aisle, he lay down on the ground, belly up, inciting laughter and applause from the audience.
By the end of the day, Storrey said a few people asked about adopting Johnny.
For Clara, it was time to say goodbye to Sky, who immediately pounced into her arms. Clara had tears in her eyes, as did Bevans, as Sky would be her first pet since the passing of her own dog late last year. But after seeing Sky, she knew she was ready to move on.
"Everybody couldn't say enough good things about her," Bevans said about Sky. "I'm super excited."