‘Tails’ from pet ministry camp

Anne Marie Amacher
Elizabeth Kantner, center, shows Binlee Price and Maria Telschow the teeth of pony Gypsy Rose during a pet ministry camp at St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf July 14. Holding Gypsy Rose is handler Jordyn Ellis and watching is Netty Kantner.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

BETTENDORF — “This is the best camp ever,” said Kate Parsons about the pet ministry camp July 11-15 at St. John Vianney Parish. The incoming fifth-grader said she loved how the pet ministry team brought in live animals and let the youths interact with the animals instead of just talking about them.

Kim McCool, who started the St. Francis of Assisi pet ministry earlier this year, organized the camp with adult and teen volunteers. About 30 youths in grades one through six attended. Each themed session included a visiting speaker, hands-on activities and projects for the students.

On July 11, a team of seven from Quad Cities Canine Assistance Network (QC CAN) brought therapy dogs and talked about their role in helping people. Youths were able to pet the dogs and collect cards featuring pictures of the dogs. Bettendorf Police officer Zach Schwarz brought his K9 dog Ringo on July 12 to teach youths about K9 dog duties and demonstrate a drug search. Two veterinarian technicians from the Scott County Animal Hospital spoke on July 13 about the work of veterinarians and vet techs and dog agility training. A pony named Gypsy Rose from Horses of Course in Blue Grass visited camp on July 14. The week rounded out with Anne Evans and her therapy dog, Ralphie, an English Labrador Retriever, as a part of the Trinity/Unity Point Caring Canine program.


McCool, a rider herself, showed tools to care for horses and ponies during the July 14 session. While youths took turns going outside to see Gypsy Rose, their peers worked on worksheets that included fun facts about horses, word searches and a maze. Some worksheets featured grooming tools, the parts of a horse, pictures of horses and instructions on how to draw a horse.

Outside, Gypsy Rose alternated between eating hay her handlers provided and chewing grass on the parish property. “She’s a free lawnmower,” one girl exclaimed. Elizabeth Kantner of Horses of Course asked the youths to guess Gypsy Rose’s weight. Answers ranged from 15 pounds to 400 pounds to 5,000 pounds. The correct answer: 884 pounds.

She showed the youths how to use some of the tools McCool displayed. They were taught how to approach the pony to pet or brush her. Each student had the opportunity to pet and/or brush the pony and two girls had permission to braid a part of Gypsy Rose’s tail.

Kantner said being a part of the pet ministry camp was a fun opportunity to get kids to experience seeing and touching a live pony. First-grader Sophia Gomes said, “I never saw a real horse (pony) in real life. I braided her tail.” Fourth-grader Ari Dusing enjoyed seeing the live animals, too. Fourth-grader Maggie Kovar added, “This was really nice to put God and a pet ministry together. It was very good.”

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