Fun with Furry Friends

A smiling young girl and a small, white dog with a blue bow on one ear. A young girl and her mother looking at and interacting with a small white dog. A young girl and a large white and brown dog with short, curly hair. A young girl rests on her knees and holds a treat in front of the face of a large white dog with short, curly hair. A young girl stroking a small white dog on an examination table. A young girl rests on her knees and holds a treat in front of the face of a large white dog with short, curly hair.
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4-H’er works with dogs, improves self-esteem and confidence

Written by Rhiannon Page • Photos by Kevin Hudson

At just 10 years old, Annalexa Moore is learning how to be a responsible pet owner, thanks to the 4-H Dog Club in Lauderdale County.

Annalexa first heard of the 4-H Dog Club from a very special guest speaker: her mother. Dr. Allison Moore, a local veterinarian, spoke to the club about proper care of dogs, including vaccines, preventives, and more.

“I wanted to become involved in the dog club after I went with my mom to a meeting and saw everything that they did, like talk and interact and work with our dogs,” explains the fourth grader.

Lacey Dysart, a Mississippi State University Extension agent in Lauderdale County, created the dog club to provide an opportunity for more people to get involved in 4-H. Livestock ownership is not common in urban Meridian; dogs, on the other hand, are popular companions.

“I thought this would be a great way to gain 4-H members and teach them life skills, such as leadership, citizenship, responsibility, and much more,” Dysart explains. “Our club focuses on living out the four H’s of 4-H: head, heart, hands, and health.”

A typical meeting includes talking and learning about dogs from a variety of guest speakers, but the fun doesn’t stop there. At some meetings, members get to bring their dogs to work on skills they have learned.

“I like learning how to properly walk my dog and teach him how to sit and stay,” Annalexa explains. “The best thing about the club is being able to work with my dog and bring him so he’s not just sitting at home.”

While the club focuses on learning to care for dogs, 4-H’ers develop other useful skills, as well.

“The dog club focuses on positive youth development, citizenship, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math),” Dysart explains. “We offer opportunities for children

to learn and develop life skills that are necessary to be successful leaders and citizens. Through using our dogs, we sharpen communication, leadership, and teamwork skills. We also focus on caring for others and giving back to the community.”

Annalexa is one of several children whose participation in the club is improving their self-esteem, communication skills, and confidence, Dysart emphasizes.

“Annalexa is a very outgoing, kind, and confident 4-H’er who is always learning by doing, lending a helping hand when needed, and continually working to be the best version of herself,” Dysart says. “This club has provided opportunities for Annalexa to learn STEM-based information and improve her communication and confidence.”

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