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Tag: programs

In this program, kids read to shelter dogs to help them (the dogs) become more confident

bookbuddies1

Programs in which kids read to dogs are nothing new, but the Humane Society of Missouri is putting a new twist on the idea — having children read to shelter dogs to boost the dog’s confidence, as opposed to their own.

In the Shelter Buddies Reading Program, young volunteers — from ages 5-16 — read to shy and withdrawn shelter dogs, helping them grow comfortable with visitors.

As a result, those shy dogs become less likely to cower in the back of their glass-enclosed kennels and more likely to get adopted.

“We saw more and more rescue animals that were shy, fearful, and stressed out in the shelter environment,” JoEllyn Klepacki, the society’s assistant director of education told Today.com. “Unfortunately, these dogs are less likely to get adopted, since they tend to hang back instead of engage when potential adoptees come through.”

bookbuddiesWhile it’s aimed at primarily at helping dogs, the program is benefiting the volunteers as well.

In addition to helping them hone their reading skills, they learn about dogs, and their body language, and how to draw them out of their shells — all with the help of a good book and some treats.

The volunteers go through training sessions (with a parent) to learn how to interact with dogs, and the shelter has a library of about 100 donated books the children can read from, though many choose to bring their own.

Not a whole lot of staff supervision is required because the dogs remain in their enclosures — likely for liability and safety reasons — and one parent is required to accompany each child when they come to read.

Even though physical contact is limited, Klepacki believes the program is making a difference.

“These were dogs that before were hiding in the backs of the rooms with their tails tucked. You can see the connection — you can see them responding to those kids.”

Klepacki thinks other shelters could start a similar program at little expense.

“For next to no cost, the payoff is immeasurable.”

(Photos courtesy of the Humane Society of Missouri)

Inmates + dogs = a second chance times 2

A new documentary takes an inside look at the kind of “win-win-win” program I think should exist in every state, if not every prison.

“Dogs on the Inside” follows the relationships between abused stray dogs and inmates at a Massachusetts prison who are training and caring for them, getting them prepared to be put up for adoption.

dogsoninsideUnder a program called “Don’t Throw Us Away,” shelter and rescued dogs from the southeastern U.S. are sent to the North Central Correctional Institution at Gardner, where a group of inmate trainers work to regain their trust and, in the process, get some lessons in resilience and empathy.

The program benefits dogs and inmates. The third winner? Society — the one to which those inmates eventually are returning.

It’s similar to programs in other states we’ve written about before, including Philadelphia’s New Leash on Life, and, in North Carolina, a program with the same name, operated by the Forsyth County Humane Society.

insideGiven we’re a country with more two million inmates incarcerated, given six to eight million dogs and cats enter shelters each year, and given most of both spend that time unloved and idle, getting them together — given the benefits that can follow — makes good sense

Dogs on the Inside” follows the relationships between neglected and abused stray dogs and prison inmates in Gardner, Mass., as they “work together for a second chance at a better life: a forever home for the dogs and a positive life outside prison for the inmates.”

“Connected by their troubled pasts, the dogs learn to have faith in people again while the inmates are reminded of their own humanity and capacity for love and empathy,” the filmmakers say.

Directed by Brean Cunningham and Douglas Seirup, the film shows “the timeless connection between man and dog, showing the resiliency of a dogs’ trust and the generosity of the human spirit in the unlikeliest of places … In the seemingly dark recesses of a prison, a spark of light emerges that is a reminder of the wonderful and timeless connection that exists between dog and man.”

(Photos: Courtesy of “Dogs on the Inside”)

Something different on Saturday morning

mcmillan

As part of its continuing effort to make Saturday morning television less cartoony and more educational, CBS is premiering a show whose host rescues a dog every week.

We applaud (almost) everything about that idea.

In the show, called “Lucky Dog,” dog trainer Brandon McMillan will rescue, train and find homes for 22 dogs in 22 weeks.

McMillan, who is said to have trained as many as 10,000 dogs — some for television and movie roles — will choose a dog each week from a shelter, bring him home, train him and find him a good home, according to the Associated Press.

The show, produced by Litton Entertainment, airs Saturday mornings (check your local listings) and is targeted to teens 13 to 16 years old.

According to McMillan, he will not pick any dogs for the show who have abuse in their past — something he says he can detect in his first 30 seconds with a dog.

While he works with those dogs on his own time, he says they won’t appear on “Lucky Dog” because “the viewers that watch this show are not going to want to see a dog that’s been in a fight. This is a family show.”

We — though liking the basis for the show — think that kind of thinking is wrong, and a cop-out, and a missed opportunity for educating an age group that needs to be educated about animal abuse, at least by 13, if not sooner.

“Lucky Dog” is one of four new shows replacing  Saturday morning cartoons at CBS, at least in part to fulfill the network’s requirement for educational television.

And it sounds as if — much like the cereal ads it will appear amid — it will be heavily sugar-coated.

But at least it’s educational.

McMillan, 36 , said he will likely choose dogs he “makes a connection with,” then train them so they are proficient in seven common commands — sit, stay, down, come, off, heel and no.

McMillan will choose the family each dog will go to by evaluating emails he receives at his Southern California ranch — the Lucky Dog Ranch — and checking out the house and yard where the new dog will live. He’ll also spend a couple of hours training the family.

“Service dogs for those who’ve served us”

In case you missed it, Glenn Close gave viewers of the Oprah Winfrey show an inside look last week at Puppies Behind Bars, and that organization’s latest initiative — providing service dogs for wounded veterans.

Under the new program — “Dog Tags: Service Dogs for Those Who’ve Served Us” — prison inmates train and raise puppies to become service and therapy dogs for wounded veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“It’s totally a win-win situation,” said Close “On one hand, the inmates … are given a chance to give back to society and learn invaluable skills that will prove vital if they ever re-enter life outside prison. On the other, wounded soldiers are given a chance to rebuild their shattered lives — to be released from the prison of their wounds. What unites both inmate and soldier is the love, loyalty and talent of a Puppies Behind Bars dog…”

FetchDog, a Portland-based pet supply company Close helped start and writes a blog for, is helping support the program by donating $1 from the sale of each of its new “Chewy Shoe” dog toys. Vibram Pet Products, which manufactures the toy, will also donate a dollar of each sale to the cause, according to a press release.

The toy is available for purchase at FetchDog.com

Puppies Behind Bars was founded in 1997 to raise guide dogs for the blind. Since then it has worked with prison inmates to train explosive detection dogs and dogs to assist the disabled and autistic.

Paula Abdul to campaign for guide dogs

American Idol judge — and Chihuahua owner (times four) — Paula Abdul has signed up to help raise money for guide dog programs.

Abdul will be helping Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance, Petco, and independent pet stores raise awareness and money for guide dog organizations across the country, according to Dogchannel.com.

Her role involves getting the word out to the public about the time and effort that goes into training a potential guide dog puppy — an18 to 20 months process, followed by another six months in formal guide dog training school. After about six months of school, the dog gets matched with a blind person. For 28 days, more training takes place at the guide dog facility so the person can learn how to handle their dog.

Learning about the amount of time and money it takes to train these dogs inspired her to join the nonprofit side of raising awareness so that more guide dogs are made available. Abdul said. “I have always been amazed at how it transforms people’s lives.”