Niko has a new leash on life in Humboldt

By Jasmin Ward
Flapjack staff

First-time dog owner Camilo Hernandez held tight to the leash as his 50-pound dog dragged him down the beach, the big dog occasionally jumping in to the incoming tide with a tennis ball in his mouth and wide grin on his face. It is a dogs’ happy place at Trinidad Beach when the weather is nice.

The pair are now inseparable and often can be found walking local trails in and around Humboldt County or visiting beaches on weekday afternoons.

Julia Morales, Hernandez’s long-time girlfriend remembered the day she first saw Niko.

“He was a tiny shy little puppy when Hernandez brought him home the first day,” Morales said. “we were planning to drive up here the next morning so I can start school but when I saw him I knew he had to come with us.”

It was clear the puppy did not have a good start on life to the couple and they were prepared to change things around for Niko.

“His previous owner was an old friend of mine,” Hernandez said. “But when I saw the way he was treating this innocent little guy I couldn’t handle it. He would lock him up in the bathroom for days with little food and no water.”

Hernandez shared how during the first few months Niko often would stay hidden in small hiding places, rarely eat and would not walk on a leash. Noises, such as pots and pans in the kitchen or an action-packed show on TV would make him jump and run in fear. Being persistent with him they often tried to limit his exposure and introduce new sounds and objects to him gradually and allowing him to take his time.

“What really got him use to me I think was because I am a chill guy,” Hernandez said. “I would spend nights just playing video games or watching Netflix on the couch and after a while Niko would be on the couch lying next to me. At first the noise from the TV would make him jump but over time he got used to it.”

Despite his uneasiness around strangers, bikes, and tall trees on windy days Hernandez has made a lot of progress with helping Niko to be a socialized dog. He admits his body language and attitude when he is with Niko plays a big role in how he behaves. When he is feeling unsure about a situation or person Hernandez stands tall and acts confident he says and it usually helps Niko pass by the situation without freezing up or trying to bolt the other way.

“They have a close bond,” Morales said. “I think he knows that Camilo rescued him to give him a better home and he thanks him every day by the way he looks up at him.”

Since he doesn’t let new people get near him or touch him the couple doesn’t allow guest to come over often unless they can control the situation and keep their pup feeling comfortable.

“It is not easy, because when he gets scared now that he is 50-plus pound dog he is difficult to control,” Hernandez said. “He will run jump over tables, knock people down and do just about anything in his power to get away from the situation. His tail goes under him; his eyes get wide and his whole body shakes when it gets bad. It makes me feel sorry for him that he is that afraid of certain people or things. “

HSU student and friend of the couple, Ayuja Dixit remembers the first time she met Niko.

“We met at the beach, his happy place,” said Dixit. “When I found out that he is a timid and nervous puppy because of his past I offered to help him get use to strangers by starting off really slow and letting him come to me. He likes me now, and no longer crouches down in fear when I get close to him.”

Hernandez plans to continue to work with Niko and hopes to one day soon travel outside the states with his dog. He plans to visit Canada and Costa Rica to see family next year and hopes his dog can be right by his side.

“My goal for him is to have a great life, continue to gain confidence, and have the best experiences a dog can possibly have” Hernandez said. “I saw how this dog’s life started out and it was ugly. But to see how much he has gone through and still can be a kind loving sweet dog I know there is hope for him.”





Saving pets through education in Humboldt

By Cynthia Martinez Soto
Flapjack staff

Kim Class founded Companion Animal Foundation (CAF), a non profit animal rescue, in 2002. She wanted to start this animal shelter due to the large number of animals being euthanized in Humboldt County. Class stated that there was as many as 6,500 animals being euthanized by animal control about four years ago.
“I would hear of so many wonderful animals that were fit to be in loving good homes,” Class said. “Something needed to happen.”
Class is originally from Rocky River Ohio and graduated high school there in 1982. She now resides in Arcata, where she helps run the two thrift stores, one in Blue Lake and one in Arcata, that help fund her organization. Not only is she the founder and director of the CAF but she is a loving wife and mother. She married in 1989 and currently has a daughter and a son who help her around with the friendly pet business when they can.

Cattissa Kelsey, a store employee at the Arcata Thrift store location, described Class as a genuine woman who cares about her family and work.
“She has such a good heart like she honestly cares about her kids a lot and their safety,” said Kelsey. “She won’t leave work until she knows things are for sure taken care of in the store.”

Class is also a registered vascular technologist. She greatly emphasized how important it is to spay or neuter animals due to the overpopulation of animals on the streets who will end up euthanized. After her goal of creating a successful adoption center, which she currently has made possible, she wants to educate as many individuals and especially the youth on how to be compassionate and responsible caretakers.

Cheryl Boden, who helps run the volunteer work for the Meowie Zowie Program, which makes catnip pillows to continue raising money for the medication and food supply for the animals, said Class is more driven than ever now that her focus is on educating the public on animal care.
“Kim is doing wonderful things here and she is making it a complete personal mission to create an education sanctuary for the kids,” said Boden. “So that they can pass on our teachings of good pet care.”

Class created summer camps educating younger children on pet care hands on. Nutrition, vaccinations, microchips, and running animal tests are also some of the things taught by CAF to the kids enrolled in these camp programs. Class has created as well a spay and neuter assistance program for new owners who financially need it, a trap-neuter-return program for feral cats, and an adoptions and foster families for rescue animals program. Although these are still only a few things she has accomplished for the four legged community. Now the summer camp program which she had begun in 2015 seemed to be so successful it is now a regular thing kids look forward to in Humboldt County.

Heather Shelton is helping direct the 2017 summer camp this year.

“The returning kids get really excited every summer for this camp,” she said. “They just see the puppies and kittens and they just try their best to use all their learnings from the camp on the animals.”

Class wants to continue growing the summer camp program in the next following years to come due to its immediate impact seen on the children by the end of camp. She said that if you get the kids thinking in ways they never thought before on animals then that is a step towards compassion and building a healthy community here in Humboldt. She has received much recognition in her community for her hard work and is now expanding her business into the McKinleyville area where more land was purchased for CAF for the purpose of creating a center for education.
“We get phone calls and walk ins everyday from pet owners wanting to learn about how to be better owners and educating these people has helped in uniting the community,” she said. “It furthers the idea of putting the ‘good work’ out there. Of course it also helps in the building of a better environment for all living individuals and animals in the world.”