I have been the Webelos leader now for almost 4 weeks and I have already severely traumatized at least one of my boys as well as freaking several more of them out.
The boys meet at my house after school. We start with a healthy snack (we previously learned about Fitness), have a little flag ceremony, say the scout oath, and we were off on a fieldtrip. I had 6 boys and we loaded into the car. It was my original plan to go to the County Commissioner's office but they were in budget meetings. Not a problem as I decided on the Humane Society which is not only close, but it too would fulfill a citizenship item.
The Humane Society people were great. Steven met us to take us on a tour. Our first stop was in the room where you can pick out a cat to adopt. All of the boys headed in except one. I encouraged this scout to come in, but he just shook his head no. It took a minute for him to tell me he was allergic to cats. Oops. OK. He could just wait out until the next room. The next room was the kitten room. Ok, keep waiting outside. We learned that they have to name over 3000 animals each year (the cat named 'Godzilla' prompted this tidbit of info). Then it was on to the room where they give shots to new animals. They were washing little cats in there. Maybe the next room. Sick cats. OK, there have got to be some dogs in this place, I can hear them. When are we getting to the dogs?
Then we got to the puppy room. Yeah! Everyone could happily participate without fear of swollen eyes or hives. This was getting good. We saw the operating room (cat free) then outside to see the dog's play area. They put out 4 dogs at a time to play during the day. The only place left was the rows of dog kennels (this is actually where we found Daisy a few months ago... but that's another story). Our guide explained the procedures and treatment of the dogs before he let us go up and down the aisles because it gets too loud from barking once you go see the dogs. After his talk, he turned us loose.
We walked single-file up and down the rows. There were cute dogs. Big dogs. Little dogs. Scrappy dogs. No cats. Yeah. This was good. Then all of the sudden, we passed a kennel with a large Lab-mix looking dog. One of the scouts stopped and said, "Hey, that looks like my old dog!" Hmm. Each of the kennels has a picture of the animal and it's name. "Hey, that's my old dog's name, but it's spelled different." I could see what was happening and I was anxious to keep moving. I encouraged the boys to keep walking, I could hear my voice getting higher pitched. My son Seth chimed in that he too thought that looked like the same dog. Argh... Let's go see the Chihuahua puppies on the other aisle... Wow, we need to wrap this up... We have been here a while. I could see tears in the eyes of the boy as he considered the idea that this might be his dog. I was feeling panicked and a little sick.
I knew exactly what happened. It WAS his dog!! His former family pet was in a kennel at the Humane Society!!!
His mom told me the whole story weeks ago. This dog had been a fairly new addition to their family and was trashing everything. The kids came home one day a few weeks ago to find he was gone. His mom told their family that she had taken the dog to a new home with lots of land to run and a nice couple to take care of him. I knew the truth and there was nothing I could do to put the proverbial cat back in the bag. I could have argued that this might just LOOK like his old dog, but with 3000 names to choose from, how did they pick his dog's same name? Do you ever get that blank look while you are screaming inside your head?
Luckily, it really was time to go and we loaded into the car. This boy got into the front seat and we drove home. I had all of the boys run in to get their stuff so I could take them home and I asked this boy to stay in the car. I put my hand on his shoulder and said 'I don't know if that was your dog, but if it wasn't, what will happen to him?' He shrugged. 'He is going to be adopted by a family that loves him. What if it is your dog?' He started bawling. 'He will still be adopted by a family that really, really loves him. He is going to be happy no matter what.' Probably not the comforting words he was needing to hear, but I gave it my best shot. I gave him a little shoulder hug and he swallowed his tears just in time for the other scouts return.
After dropping everyone home, I tried calling both parents to give them a heads up but was unsuccessful. I called his mom tonight and apologized for permanently scarring her sweet son. She is a good friend of mine and I felt awful. She was nice and said he would be all right, but I still feel sad and somewhat ill. The whole 'allergic to cats' thing I was worrying about seems inconsequential. I guess it is all relative. I have heard lots of crazy stories about scouts, and now I have my own awkward moment.