I said that the first blog entry would be on pit bull advocacy, but I decided to postpone that entry for a few weeks. This week, I scheduled an appointment to work with a pit bull puppy that is going to be trained as a working dog! I’ve decided to wait until I meet him so I can include more first-hand information and adorable pictures. However, this has inspired me to write an entry about working dogs and an awesome program that I was a part of as a middle school science teacher.
I am privileged to have spent the last three years teaching in an urban charter school, where I worked with brilliant and inspiring 5th-8th graders. On Fridays, I worked with Linda Blick and the other coordinators of the Youth Ambassadors Working Dog Program (YAP) through the Tails of Hope Foundation. This program educates students about the many invaluable jobs that working dogs perform. They exposed my kids to such a wide variety dogs with important jobs, including medical alert, arson, drug detection, therapy, search and rescue, police, and carting dogs.
This program accomplished two amazing goals: 1) it taught my students how important and impressive working dogs are and 2) it taught my kids how to trust dogs. There was a disheartening amount of animal abuse in the community that I worked in. Dogs in particular were often mistreated and conditioned to be aggressive towards humans. Many of my students grew up with a deep mistrust of dogs, since they had either been attacked by an abused dog or knew someone who had been attacked. Through YAP, my kids had the opportunity to rebuild their relationships with dogs based on understanding and trust. It was amazing and inspiring to observe the transformations that occurred over the school year. Students who were too nervous to get within 6 feet of a small Chihuahua in September were lying on the floor and cuddling with big German Shepherd in May. It was seriously awesome to be a part of such incredible transformations.
You can check out YAP’s website here (though it doesn’t appear to be super up-to-date, but you can learn more about the program’s mission and accomplishments) and read this article published in the Hartford Courant in 2012.
Working dogs rock!