If you like animals, the camp run by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was the place to be this August.

The SPCA offered two, week-long summer camps for middle school students interested in learning more about animal care.

The youngsters from schools across the Island were invited to explore the human-animal partnership and learned more about responsible pet ownership, the role of humans in animal health and well-being, equine and agricultural animal care and the benefits of therapy pets. In addition to lessons on the themes, the campers decorated their sun hats, made and kept a journal, and crafted animal enrichment toys.

Asked to explain what she had been up to during the camp, TN Tatem student Selina Whitter listed, “mopping the office, cleaning the kennels, putting the cats in cages, washing up and laundry”. If that seems like just a load of hard work, Selina explained it was just the contrary.

“We had a lot of fun,” she elaborated. “We worked with dogs, cats and guinea pigs, and at the end of each day played with the cats and kittens. We went on field trips and played games.”

With the ambition of becoming a vet, Selina “got used to cleaning animals and making sure they’re in good health”.

She has a menagerie of her own: 50 parakeets in an aviary, a bunny, a dog and a parrot named Ernie. And as part of the camp she got to interact with even more animals, and meet new friends.

Azriah Tucci also once wanted a career involving animals. “I wanted to run a job as an animal trainer,” the Warwick Academy student explained. “Now I want to be a graphic designer.” Attending the camp allowed her “to be around animals and still be able to do what I want to do later on in life.”

“Show love to cats and they show love back. It’s fun to watch them play,” she noted. The highlight of the camp for the 14-year-old was the visit to Wadson’s Farm. “I liked the pigs the most,” she elaborated. “I got to learn how a farm runs. It runs way different from what I thought. All the animals, even though they’re used, work together, like the broilers scratch up the fly larvae, so there’s less flies on the farm.”

For 13-year-old Joseph Pacheco “the camp’s been great”. He has learned how to help animals who have been abused or surrendered. Seing them slowly getting back to health, watching them get adopted and getting closer with them has been “very rewarding”.

Joseph has two cats of his own, adopted from a vet just before they were to be sent to the SPCA. Too young to be a Junior Volunteer (see separate story), he and his Mum would come down and play with the cats. He signed up for this inaugural camp to see what it was all about before committing to becoming a Junior Volunteer.

“I had a lot of fun,” he declared, “I got close to some animals and I had a great time”. He cited the different outings to Wadson’s Farm, WindReach Petting Zoo and Terceira’s stables as some of the highlights. Being the only boy has had its awkward moments, Joseph admitted, “but you get used to it, and a little bit of extra attention. Mrs Hayward will say, ‘Well done girls …and Joseph’.”

All the campers agreed, “It’s fun. If you love animals, come”.

By The Royal Gazette