A great example of how partnerships between dogs and at risk youth and adults can help everyone involved.
From the Londoner –
Residents of London’s Craigwood Youth Services are preparing to say goodbye to their first class of new assistance dogs after more than a year of training at the Ailsa Craig campus.
The youthful trainers began to work with the assistance dogs in September 2007, when the dogs were still young pups. Since then, the pups have had regular training sessions with the youth to learn specialized assistance tasks for local people with physical challenges.
The youth and pups were partnered under the BARK program (Building Awareness Responsibility and Knowledge), a collaboration of Craigwood Youth Services and Golden Opportunity Assistance Dogs, with funding from the Trillium Foundation.
Donna Frezell, the owner and lead trainer at Golden Opportunity Assistance Dogs, brought the concept to London in 2006 after participating in similar programs in California.
Project BARK is modelled after an innovative, therapeutic intervention program for youth who are identified to be at high risk for continued emotional and behavioural challenges.
Under the guidance of Golden Opportunity Assistance Dogs’ trainers the youth learn to train and place assistance dogs with people with physical disabilities. The training teaches youth responsibility, emotional regulation and nurturing skills.
As the group is nearing graduation day, trainers and dogs met recently at the Golden Opportunity Assistance Dog training centre in Westmount Shopping Centre to demonstrate advanced skills such as retrieving a water bottle from the refrigerator, turning on light switches and even fetching a telephone.
Graham Ashbourne, program director at the Craigwood campus in Ailsa Craig, considers the program to be a “win-win” for all participants.
“It’s wonderful to see the effect that the dogs have on our kids,” he says. “The dogs have a dramatic calming influence on children who are often dealing with significant emotional challenges. The attachments they form are important for the children and for the dogs. Both our youth and staff look forward to the BARK days here.”
Read the full article here – http://www.thelondoner.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1694828