P.A.W.S. goes beyond dogs

By Sara Hildreth

When thinking of the word ‘paws’, one probably doesn’t assume that it stands for Promoting Animal Welfare and Services.

P.A.W.S. is a student volunteer organization that allows students to get involved with animals.

Throughout the year, P.A.W.S. puts together local volunteer opportunities with the Lexington Humane Society, Woodstock Animal Foundation and other reputable animal adoption agencies.

“We provide opportunities for adults and children to gain education about animals,” said Jessica Bellamy, director of P.A.W.S.

The mission of P.A.W.S. is to positively impact the lives of animals through numerous efforts, educate the public and be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Once a month, P.A.W.S. hosts a volunteer interest meeting open to all UK students. During these meetings, students can learn more about P.A.W.S. and the opportunities they can take to make a difference in the life of an animal.

“This is a lot of fun because we have something for every animal lover,” Bellamy said. Horses Healing Humans took center stage at P.A.W.S. interest meeting on Tuesday.

Rosemary Taylor, former U.S. top 5 rider and chief riding instructor at Sunburst Farms, discussed the role that horses play in the life of adults and children.

Horses Healing Humans is a special needs operation that assists in developing new skills and improving disabilities of both adults and children.

“Horses build a relationship with the person and it gives the rider the opportunity to share their thoughts and emotions that they normally wouldn’t be able to,” Taylor said.

Horses allow us to make a lot of mistakes with them and that teaches us to be more alert when riding, Taylor said.

This particular therapy could be very beneficial of someone who is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). The rider is in control of the horse so it is imperative that the rider give the horse its full attention.

Other riders at Sunburst have never walked or talked, like an eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who has been riding at the farm.

Because of horse riding, he has learned to use his stomach muscles which have helped make his lungs stronger. Now he is able to breathe better and volunteers are hoping that this will improve his difficulties of being able to talk.

The skills that these riders gain and improve while spending time with these animals can also be used outside of the horse track. Teamwork, positive reinforcement and body awareness are all things that can be taken away from this experience.

“Seeing them do something they have never done before is very rewarding,” Claire Dingess, a volunteer at the farm, said.