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Posts Tagged ‘http://www.rd.com/your-america-inspiring-people-and-stories/teens-bond-with-dogs/article112618.html’

Nature; We are a part of Mother Nature, the ultimate decision maker. Just because we human are superior to other animals that doesn’t mean there aren’t any rules for us at all. Land slides, floods, hurricanes, tornados – anyone try to interfere with Mother Nature, this is what you get. Actually I believe most of the time we are asking for trouble.

And I believe in one more thing that there s an underestimated bond between the less intelligent beings and us. It’s there and it’s not there, not very clear why and how but we humans get along quite well with certain animals. We even call one such species, “Man s’ Best Friend” and it’s quite true you’d agree.

One lost soul, finds a reason to live….to trust….to love….Motivation; it comes in different shapes… 

kid-and-the-dog 

 

06th POST

 

When a troubled teen cares for an unwanted dog, the healing begins for both.

By Cathy Free

 

Spiker is only a year old, but he’s already done time on death row. Abandoned by his owners, he landed in an animal shelter with a policy of destroying dogs that were passed over for adoption.

Now, though, he’s gotten a reprieve. “Come on, Spiker. You can do it,” his trainer urges. “Shake, boy, shake!”

Spiker, a mix of German shorthaired pointer and Labrador retriever, gazes at the young woman, perplexed. Then he remembers: Last time he obeyed Marcy, a biscuit magically appeared. Slowly he raises his right paw. “Good boy,” Marcy says, ruffling the dog’s spotted coat and offering a treat.

Spiker is changing Marcy’s life as surely as Marcy is changing his. The 18-year-old has lived at Echo Glen Children’s Center, a state-operated juvenile correctional facility in Snoqualmie, Washington, for nine months. While she’s there, she’s participating in Canine Connections, a program that brings unwanted dogs and incarcerated kids together.

“I’ve never been attached to a dog before, because things always move away from me,” Marcy says. “It’s like with my family. They die or they leave me.” Marcy never knew her father; her mother died of a drug overdose when Marcy was eight. After that, she began shuttling from one foster home to another-more than 50 in all. Unable to get along with any of her host families, she ended up on the streets selling crack. She was a regular in juvenile court until a judge ordered her to spend a year at Echo Glen.

“I was real angry that I got sent up,” Marcy says. “I didn’t want to cooperate with anybody.” But a few days after she arrived, she saw a group of other teenagers walking dogs outside her dorm. She learned that if her behavior improved, she could join the program. “Those dogs were in trouble like I was,” says Marcy. “I knew I could give one a second chance.”

Ringed by tall pines, Echo Glen resembles a summer camp, with cottages, fields, and an indoor swimming pool. But the 160 kids who live there—some wearing orange jumpsuits indicating they’re a security or flight risk—have staff members with them wherever they go. The residents (boys ages 10 to 16; girls, 10 to 21) have committed serious, often violent, crimes, including robbery and murder. Most have a history of drug abuse, and 70 percent have been diagnosed with depression or other mental illnesses. Canine Connections takes on some of the toughest cases.

“These kids come in with the same kind of issues as the dogs do—abandonment, neglect, abuse,” says Jo Simpson, 56, a longtime supervisor at Echo Glen and a veteran dog trainer and 4-H leader who modeled Canine Connections on a similar program in Oregon.

 

Her eight-week course, which provides intensive training in dog handling and grooming, takes ten students at a time. The kids acquire skills they can use in the outside world. They also learn how to care. “Working with the dogs teaches the kids responsibility,” Simpson says. “And for many of them, it’s the first time they feel empathy for another living thing.”

The program is as economical as it is effective. Simpson’s annual budget is $12,000, funded by private donors. An informal follow-up by Echo Glen found that only 10 percent of Canine Connections graduates were arrested again—less than one fifth the average rate for juvenile offenders. The statistics, however, tell only part of the story. “By making a difference to the dogs,” says Neil Kirkpatrick, PhD, a psychologist with the state’s Department of Social and Health Services, “the kids see that they can make positive changes in their own lives.”

As Spiker romps through the grass with Marcy after his lesson, it’s obvious that the two have bonded. “I was afraid to get close at first,” Marcy admits. “But once I got to know him, I just couldn’t give up on him.”

When Simpson assigns a dog to a student, she also hands over the animal’s case file. The kids learn about each dog’s background and personality; in class, they discuss their dogs’ challenges and how to overcome them. “They have to analyze the dog’s behavior: Why is he doing that?” says Simpson. “And they also have to do that to themselves: What in my past is causing me to act this way?”

So far, most of the pairings have worked. Only a couple of dogs have been sent back to shelters for being aggressive, and only a few kids have been expelled from the program.

But eventually the dogs do leave. After two months, they’ve learned basic commands, corrected the worst of their behavior problems, and are ready for adoption. Each year, about 100 dogs come through the program and are advertised on websites like petfinder.org and dogfriendly.com. Simpson has no trouble placing the animals, which are ideal for people who want to adopt a rescued dog but lack the time or expertise to train one.

“Let’s get a move on, Mulley,” says Teal, gently tugging her Australian-German shepherd into the gym. Mulley was beaten by her former owner, leaving her easily intimidated and hungry for affection. “I have to be real slow and patient with her because of her background,” says Teal, 15.

As the other handlers line up with their leashed dogs for a drill, loud barks bounce off the walls. “That is not appropriate behavior-tell them to stop,” shouts Simpson.

“Stop!” the kids command.

There is immediate silence, broken by a few whimpers. “Good. Let’s go,” says Simpson. “Heel!” The handlers trek across the gym as Simpson calls out other commands, which the teens pass along to their dogs. “About-turn, halt!” “Forward, left turn!” “Forward, right turn!” “Sit!” “Shake!”

“Good girl, Mulley!” Teal says after the session, noting that the dog’s improved attitude reflects her own. “She’s stubborn like me. I want to do my own thing, but now I’ve learned to slow down a little.”

Patience, persistence, praise, and practice are the watchwords of Simpson’s program. But they can’t protect her students from the pain of separation. The kids will soon turn the animals over to their new owners.

For some, the sorrow can be overwhelming, and a few have needed grief counseling. “We try to emphasize that they’re helping the dog and the community, but it still hurts pretty deep,” says Simpson.

Justin, a slender 14-year-old with blond hair and a shy smile, is worried about giving his dog, Cherry, to a new family. “I wonder if they’ll treat her as well as I did,” says the boy, who’s been in and out of trouble since age 12, when his father went to prison. “I was pretty freaked-out when they brought me here,” he recalls. “But now I’ve mellowed a lot. Cherry helped me. I can tell her anything.”

When Justin was first introduced to the two-year-old Shar-Pei-Lab mix, she wouldn’t make eye contact. So he sat in the dog’s kennel holding a treat until Cherry inched her way over. Within minutes, the two were friends. “I’ll be sad when she leaves,” Justin says, the dog in his lap. “I wish I could take her with me when I get out.”

To ease the transition, adoptive families take the dogs home on weekends at first. Later, the kids conduct exit interviews with the new owners, discussing the pet’s care and training, history and health, likes and dislikes. Says Simpson, “They take a lot of pride in knowing they’ve molded these dogs into good pets.”

Marcy still has a few months to go before she’s released. But it’s time for her to say goodbye to Spiker. On graduation day, she leads him through several commands in front of a crowd of kids, instructors, and prospective owners. When the applause dies down, she puts on a brave face and gives her dog one last biscuit before crouching down and hugging him. Spiker’s new owners, Kerry Kellogg and Sean Eller, are here to take the dog home to Kellogg’s seven-year-old daughter.

Marcy watches as the couple lead Spiker out of the kennel, her sadness lightened by the knowledge that she’ll soon begin training another dog: a five-month-old German shepherd named Spunky. Beyond that, the future looks good.

“When I get out of here, I’m going to work with dogs, maybe become a groomer,” she says. “Then I can have them around me all the time.”

 

Live and let live….

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