To kick off the “Dog Day of Summer,” students from across Castaic gathered at Castaic Animal Shelter Tuesday to participate in Castaic Middle School’s Kids Loving Animals within Shelters (KLAWS) club’s first summer event.
During the “Dog Days of Summer-Bark for Books” event, students joined in the summer-themed celebration by reading to animals and donating plastic pools and beach balls to the shelter.
“It’s really nice to see the kids involved in serving the community and this partnership that we have now with this organization that is in Castaic,” said Stacy Dobbs, a Castaic Union School District Governing Board member. “The kids really put their heart into this in trying to find homes for the dogs and getting the word out about the shelter.”
Currently in its first year, the KLAWS club has gained so much popularity among Castaic Middle School students that the KLAWS club is expanding to elementary schools in the district.
To introduce “future KLAWS” to the club’s mission, the group invited students from Castaic Elementary School, Live Oak Elementary School and Northlake Hills Elementary School to the event.
“It’s amazing how they just listen and are so calm,” said Savannah Lopata, a sixth grade student at Castaic Elementary School who read “A Million Ways Home” to a dog named Luna.
Northlake Hills Elementary School third graders Leilani Dobbs, 8, and Harmony Winslow, 9, said they both plan on joining the KLAWS club in the future.
“Our sisters are in the same school and in the KLAWS Club,” Leilani Dobbs said. “I like to see animals because I don’t have my own pets.”
Kaelin Barke, a sixth grade student at Castaic Elementary School, was impressed by how quickly he was able to calm down one of the dogs by reading one of his favorite books, “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” to her.
“It’s really fun and I can see that it makes them calm down and not bark a lot,” he said. “I can tell the dogs appreciate it.”
Castaic Middle School Principal Bob Brauneisen said the school’s most popular club would not have been possible without the leadership of teachers and KLAWS advisors Karen Gagnon and Christine Racina.
“Events like this can only be done when you have the passion of the people who organize them and my two people are very passionate about this cause,” he said. “It’s the largest club in our school… they have a great turnout all the time so they’re doing it for the right reason.”
Both Brauneisen and Dobbs said the club is teaching the students things they would not normally learn in a classroom setting like how to be empathetic to others.
“In the schools we teach them all the academics, but then this is kind of the ‘bonus stuff’ in teaching them compassion and kindness and serving the community and getting involved,” Dobbs said.
The students’ involvement with the shelter is also working to change the public’s perception of animal shelters throughout Los Angeles County. The club even impacted Brauneisen, who owns two purebred dogs.
“The most important thing when people walk through here is that they see there are so many good animals that need adoption,” Brauneisen said. “I don’t think I would buy another dog after I came here… They’re wonderful dogs but when those dogs are gone, my next dog will come from the Castaic Animal Shelter.”
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