This One-on-One interview is with Danielle Lacy, the program director of Vets in Training. Dany joined HousePaws in 2017 as a certified teacher, and assumed the position of VIT Program Director at the start of 2018. In this One-On-One interview, we’ll get to know Dany a little bit better as a teacher and person, and what led her to her role at HousePaws.
Q: Dany, you have worked many different jobs and even owned a few of your own businesses, including a photography studio and a thrift store. As of this year you are even a published author of your own memoir! How did you arrive at your current role with the Vets in Training program?
A: I started at Vets in Training (VIT) as part time teacher. I was working once a week on my day off from my other job. I fell in love with the program and the concept of VIT. Teaching children while using animals was an idea that I found fascinating. As the program grew bigger, I found myself working more hours at VIT until one day I finally decided to leave my other job and stay at VIT permanently! I worked hard getting the program into several new schools, and after a few more months, I was invited to become the director of the VIT. I love the program and the opportunity to expand it. I intend on spreading animal love further with the help of my dedicated, fun staff.
Q: What’s your favorite class to teach? What class do kids want more and more of?
A. My favorite class to teach is Composting 101. I love watching kids change their minds from “eww worms” to “I can’t believe what worms do for us!” The kids especially enjoy the classes that involve hands-on learning with the animals. In particular, when the students hear the heartbeat of any one of our animal friends, it always puts a smile on their faces. This is the greatest VIT teacher moment!
Q. What makes a VIT teacher great? How can you tell if the kids are really enjoying a class?
A. Each VIT teacher all brings his or her own different twist to the same class. Their constant ideas and creativity is what makes the program even better. I know the students love their teachers and the class when I hear them upstairs (in our education building) chiming in and laughing and really interacting with each lesson.
Q. What is it like to care for so many different animals at the same time? Can you tell us about the Helping Hands program?
A. As a part of their responsibilities, all of the teachers are consistently making sure that all habitats are secure and clean, and that all animals are properly fed. Happy animals make for fun pets to handle (and hug!). We also have a program called Helping Hands, which gives our students a chance to be a special part of the VIT program as animal care specialists. Helping Hands assist in prepping for classes, and they get to learn the ins and outs of working for a company. Each Helping Hand has written their own resume and letter of intent, and they invest volunteer hours in our program. As they evolve and begin to work with other students, they will be invited to become a permanent CIT (counselor in training).
Q. Where do you find the animals that are a part of VIT? How do you decide which ones are adoptable and which ones become residents?
A. Our animals come from a few different places. We often work with other adoption agencies such as Wandering Whiskers and All The Little Furries. We also work with families who need to rehome their pets for many different reasons. A few of our VIT animals are permanent residents because their personality fits the program so well. Sometimes our animals become burnt out from being a VIT pet, and then we then try to find them a forever home. At this point they are amazingly friendly and adoptable, so watching them find a new, loving family is a great feeling. After this, we start again with new animals, and the process repeats itself over.
Q. Why do you think incorporating animals into an educational program is a special benefit for children (besides cuteness and fun)?
A. Animals add another level to the learning. Compassion, engagement, love, and kindness is all being learned; however it isn’t being taught. The bond between the children and the animals has a benefit all on its own.
Q. Do many of the children keep coming back for new/the next course? Can you tell us about the CIT program?
A. Most of our students at VIT come back each session. Some students come to class here and there in between their sport sessions and seasons. Others are our summer camp kids! The Counselors In Training (CIT) program is linked to our Helping Hands program. The students need to be a Helping Hand first and then they can graduate to become a full CIT. They follow a process to move from one program to the other. CITs work more directly with other students and have increasing responsibility.
Q. Where do you see the future of VIT headed? What do you hope to add to the program as it grows?
A. I am a big dreamer! I hope to have the VIT program in every school so that we can give children the chance to learn and meet animals that they would never get the chance to pet or hold on a normal day. To me, the ability to do this is priceless.
Interested in Vets In Training summer programs or fall programs? Visit our VIT webpage for more info.
Below: Dany Lacy and the Vets In Training staff in schools and at the VIT center.