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Donation allows Dakin to expand pet obedience classes

Date: 12/21/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- Is your dog's behavior making you think of bringing him or her to a pound? A $100,000 donation to the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society is helping to fund a program to fix bad habits and keep dogs with their owners.

Leslie Harris, Dakin's executive director, announced the humane society had received a donation from Pioneer Valley resident Mary Ann Cofrin that will be used to underwrite "Dakin Doggy Decorum," training classes for dogs and their owners to improve basic behaviors.

Harris explained the training program is part of Dakin's three-year plan to ensure that every animal that could be adopted finds a good home.

"We want people to build a relations with their animal ... A happy animal is a trained animal," Harris said.

The cost of six classes is $125, but there is a sliding scale to make sure the classes are open to all. The donation from Cofrin helps make this possible, Harris said.

Harris added the gift would also allow the humane society to expand its training program and work with every animal in the shelter, even cats and kittens.

Certified Pet Trainer Marni Edelhart explained that cats that stay in the back of their cage in the adoption area and don't socialize with potential pet parents are less likely to find a new home. She said that good behaviors would be marked with the sound of a clicker and then a reward. The program has been "very successful" at other humane societies, she added.

Edelhart said dog owners must attend a free orientation class before starting the training. Those classes will be offered Jan. 19, 2010 at 10:30 a.m., Jan, 12 at 6 p.m.; Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. and Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. The training sessions will be conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons.

Behaviors addressed in the classes will include sitting patiently at doors, greeting people politely, walking easily on a leash and not pulling away toward distractions and paying attention in distracting situations. There will be five to seven dogs in each class.

Cofrin described herself as a lifetime dog owner who uses her pets for pet therapy in nursing homes.

"Dogs are an important part of human health," Cofrin said.

She added she has been a supporter of Dakin for many years.

"I was waiting for the right moment to make a gift that would be substantial," she explained.

For more information on the classes, contact Edelhart at 781-4000, ext. 115 or log onto