Jensen One Of First Teen Volunteers For Shelter

PAYSON PEOPLE

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Watch 13-year-old Payson Humane Society volunteer Kyle Jensen playing with a group of puppies inside their cage and it's hard to tell who's getting the most out of it.

One thing is clear: Jensen loves animals and they love him. One of the first young people to be accepted as a volunteer at the humane society, the Rim Country Middle School eighth grader spends as much time as he can there.

"It's fun working with the animals, and the ladies here are nice," Jensen said. "I'd spend all day here every day if I could."

That would probably be more than his grandmother, Carol Calhoun, could handle.

"He has an 18-month-old baby sister who keeps his mother busy, so I pick him up and drop him off," Calhoun said. "I'm his personal chauffeur and activity coordinator."

An animal lover herself, Calhoun also does volunteer work as long as she's at the humane society anyway.

"I had horses all my life, but now I have grandchildren," she said.

While adult volunteers are always welcome, young people bring something special to the animals, Diane Fitzpatrick, humane society manager, said.

"Kids are really good for socializing the animals and keeping them adoptable," Fitzpatrick said.

"They play with them, brush them, walk them, give them baths, just get them out of their cages."

And then there are the less-pleasant chores that Jensen willingly performs.

Those include washing dishes, washing out the cages with bleach, and the inevitable scooping.

There was a time when there were no young people volunteering at the humane society.

"The board of directors didn't used to allow anybody under 18 to volunteer," Fitzpatrick said. "We fought hard to get that changed, and the kids like Kyle are the ones who are showing that was a good thing to do."

One of Kyle's favorite activities is taking a pooch or two over to Rumsey Park for some R and R in the dog park there. He is, in fact, the youngest member of Paws in the Park, the organization that got the dog park built.

During its grand opening, the group tapped Jensen to dress up in a dog costume.

"It was a last minute thing," Calhoun said. "We thought we could get a McGruff, the police dog costume, and when we couldn't, we ended up buying some fuzzy brown material at Wal-Mart the night before."

Jensen says the dog park is a popular place, and, for the most part, the dogs who frequent it get along.

But his own dog, a yellow lab named Keeper, had an altercation there recently.

"My dad takes Keeper rabbit hunting, and there was this lady at the park one day that had a little dog with white and brown patches that looked just like a fat rabbit," he said.

For the most part though, Jensen seems to have a calming effect on dogs and cats.

"There was this heeler that nobody could touch at the humane society," he recalled. "He bit like six people. I gave him two treats and from that day on, he loved me."

Calhoun and Fitzpatrick hope Jensen's volunteer work sets an example for his peers.

"As he gets closer to high school, maybe some of his friends will follow his lead instead of hanging out with kids with nothing to do," Calhoun said.

While there are already 10 young people volunteering at the humane society, Fitzpatrick hopes to start a junior auxiliary that will give even more of them a chance to get involved.

"I haven't talked to Kyle much about it, but I'd kind of like him to head it," she said. "They could raise money by doing things like car washes and go into classes and make presentations about the importance of spaying and neutering."

"I'll do that," Kyle said. "I love doing that."

Profile

Name: Kyle Jensen

Occupation: Eighth-grade student at Rim Country Middle School

Age: 13

Birthplace: Phoenix

Family: Mom, dad, sister Molly (1 1/2)

Personal motto: Always maintain your sense of humor.

Inspiration: To be a vet.

Greatest feat: Most improved student at RCMS.

Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Skateboarding and snowboarding

Three words that describe me best: Generous, fun, cool

I don't want to brag but ... I love animals and they love me too.

Person in history I'd most like to meet: Skateboard maker Tony Hawk who landed the first 900 10 years ago.

Luxury defined: All the pizza I can eat.

Dream vacation spot: Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.

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