The theme for the Gila County 4-H program is "Building Bridges for a Brighter Future." 4-H is for children and teens, ages 5 though 19. Groups are forming now. New programs are developing as interest is expressed and leaders are found to help in their area of expertise. Projects include poultry, arts and crafts, cooking and foods, goats, horses, leadership skills, dogs, livestock, model building, rabbits and much more. Lani Hall, instructional specialist for northern Gila County, will visit elementary and middle schools in the next few weeks, talking about the program and handing out materials for students to take home for discussion with parents. Wendell Stevens works with high school students.
The four H's in 4-H symbolize "The development of head to think, plan and reason; the heart to be concerned with the welfare of others, accept the responsibilities of citizenship and develop positive attitudes; the hands to be useful, helpful and skillful; and health to practice healthful living, enjoy life and use leisure time productively." (From the 4-H Youth Development publication.)
Cloverkids is a noncompetitive educational program for children ages 5 through 8 designed to help them explore, through small groups, various learning experiences. For older children, the choices are limitless. A young person with an idea or interest can build a 4-H group. The one limitation is finding leaders. Presently, leaders are being sought in archery and gardening, but if you have a skill you are willing to share with our youth, call Hall. A group can be whatever the volunteer leader and the children want it to be. Some clubs might meet weekly throughout the year, while others are more seasonal, meeting only for a few months each year. The program is very flexible.
The culmination of the year's activities for 4-H participants is the Northern Gila County Fair. The young people come with their rabbits, horses, poultry, market animals, quilting projects and more, and proudly share their accomplishments and newly acquired skills.
Members of the 4-H horse club have done very well this past year. Several members participated in the big show at West World. The rabbit group is always active and winning.
Read the information and talk with your children about 4-H. Our communities of Pine, Strawberry and Payson offer the perfect environment for 4-H projects. Rural living is becoming scarce. What we have here, we must hang onto for our children and ourselves. 4-H offers friendships, a sense of belonging and the opportunity to learn and achieve in one's own area of interest.
Club opportunities are available in Pine-Strawberry as well as Payson. 4-H is an opportunity your children have that many in this country do not have. Make the most of it. Contact Lani Hall at (928) 474-4160 or check out the Web site -- cals.arizona.edu/ gila and then click on 4-H.
Toxic dog food warning
A major pet food crisis has been announced. Diamond Pet Food, which is also sold under the label Professional and Country Value, has been found to contain a toxin that is responsible for the deaths of more than 100 dogs. Corn is the culprit. It is infected with "a deadly aflatoxin that wastes away the liver," according to Dr. Sharon Center at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell.
The dogs seemed to know that the food was bad and were refusing to eat it. Loving owners were adding gravy and other temptations to entice their dogs to eat. Early indications of illness are lethargy, loss of appetite and vomiting. If you notice any of these signs, get your dog to the veterinarian immediately. This is a life and death situation. Two-thirds of the dogs showing symptoms have died. Later symptoms include orange colored urine and jaundice and a yellowing of the eyes and gums. There is no direct antidote available as yet, according to Dr. Center.
Every pet food product has a "sell by" date. Check that date and do not buy outdated food. If it smells strange, or if your pet hesitates to eat the new food, take it back and ask questions.
Diamond Pet Food is a reasonably good quality pet food and this is a terrible thing to happen to a good company. But the lives of our pets hang in the balance. Avoid this product. For more information about the health crisis, go to MSNBC.
Christy Powers is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.