What do shelter dogs and at-risk youth have in common? A whole lot more than you think, especially if you’re talking about Teacher’s Pet, a non-profit organization based in Rochester Hills, MI.
The organization founded by Amy Johnson is no less than brilliant. Johnson, who has a love for counseling and dogs, found a way to turn her two passions and use them for the greater good. The concept is pretty simple, take area shelter dogs (with a strong emphasis on those that are harder to adopt due to breed, behavioral issues, lack of socialization, and previous abuse and neglect), pair them up with local students who also have their own behavioral challenges, and use them to help one another. The students are given the responsibility and tools necessary to train these shelter dogs using positive reinforcement, and the dogs, which are in desperate need of exercise, attention, and training in order to be adopted are taught the basic dog obedience commands. At the end of the training program, both parties are changed for the better. The students learn responsibility, are challenged, grow in confidence, and have a strong sense of pride knowing that they can contribute to something great. In some cases, they see first-hand at what their skills can accomplish because many dogs are adopted during and after the training program. The program also emphasizes on the youth learning patience, impulse control, and increasing their empathy and perspective taking skills. One student trainer stated, “I always thought I was this horrible, worthless kid, but after training my dog, I realize that I am not.”
The training program is 10-12 weeks in length and is divided up into two segments and students are assigned one dog per segment. Dogs are selected from the Oakland Pet Adoption Center, Macomb County Animal Shelter, and K-9 Stray Rescue League. Students come from Kingsley Montgomery School in Waterford, Crossroads for Youth in Oxford, Children’s Village in Waterford, and the Macomb County Juvenile Justice Center in Mount Clemens, and in order to be considered for participation in the program, students must fill out a detailed application, they even have to answer some essay questions. During the training sessions, students not only learn how to teach the dogs basic obedience commands, but they also learn general information about dog ownership, dog behavior, and different types of dog breeds. At the end of each segment, a doggie graduation event is held. This signals the end of the training for each dog in the program. Parents of the students and people interested in adopting one of the dogs attend these graduation nights. The students get to showcase their dog and show off their dog’s talents.
Teacher’s Pet is truly making a difference in the community by making shelter dogs more adoptable AND even more importantly, by making a difference in the lives of local youth.
You can help make a difference by supporting Teacher’s Pet. They currently need:
· Monetary donations
· A van to transport dogs to various locations
· Dog treats
· Dog food
· Blankets and towels
· Dog toys
· Leashes and Flat Collars
· Smalls gifts for students’ graduation
· Crates (all sizes)
· Travel carriers (all sizes)
· Grooming services
· Veterinary services
For more information on Teacher’s Pet, view available dogs ready to be adopted, and to read some of their success stories, please visit their website: http://teacherspetmichigan.org