(100 Women Who Care, June 25, 2017)
Rochester, MI – Families adopting dogs from shelters often question: who rescued whom? People and animals can be powerfully therapeutic for one another. Together, they learn compassion, empathy and the importance of companionship. An innovative program, called Teacher’s Pet, pairs at-risk youth with hard-to-adopt dogs for behavior training that is designed to bring healing and hope to both troubled teens and neglected shelter dogs across southeast Michigan.
Inspired by the success of these behavior modification and intervention therapies, 262 members of 100 Women Who Care – Greater Rochester pulled out their checkbooks and each member wrote a $100 check to Teacher’s Pet to support this program based on positive reinforcement and unconditional love. 100 Women Who Care presented a total of $26,200 to Amy Johnson, executive director for Teacher’s Pet, who explained how dog training helps teens in juvenile detention facilities and intervention programs learn personal lessons of empathy, patience, impulse control, perseverance and hope.
“We take not-quite-perfect people and we pair them with not-quite-perfect dogs, so they can both move beyond past abusive environments, mistakes or burdens,” Johnson said. Students become dog trainers, working twice a week, for two hours each session, for approximately 10 weeks. They teach the dogs basic commands and reward them for good behavior. The dogs unintentionally teach their trainers that they are valuable and capable of caring for others. “The lifelong lessons are critical to getting at-risk teens to consider new perspectives and new ways,” Johnson said.
Once these difficult dogs have been trained, the students are allowed to say good-bye, before returning them to animal rescue shelters. More than 99% of the dogs are adopted by local families.
Board member and dog trainer, Nicole Pawlowski-Herr, pitched this charity idea to 1oo Women Who Care. Since the formation of Teacher’s Pet in 2005, the program has rehabilitated more than 2,200 kids and 3,300 dogs. “They heal each other,” Herr said. “They find value in each other. Therapeutic doors open to both.”
At a recent training session with Oakland County teens and three dogs, one young man pointed out the importance of having clear expectations and commands for the dog and then rewarding positive behavior. “This dog, Bazooka, is smart. He is sort of like a teacher. I am learning a lot from him,” he said.
100 Women seeks to support local charities with very direct and basic needs. The group takes pride in its no-frills approach to direct giving. They met (for the 16th time since their inception) in April, 2017. At that meeting, like all others, the 100 Women Who Care committed one hour of time to listen to three charity “pitches.” After a quick vote, each woman there agreed to the majority-rules philosophy, and wrote a $100 check directly to the winning charity.
The collective 100 Women Who Care will convene again on Tuesday, August 15, at 7 p.m. at St. John Fisher Parish in Auburn Hills, Mich., (located at 3665 E. Walton Blvd) to hold their 17th charitable giving meeting. To date, they have raised more than $307,300. The other winning charities thus far were: New Day Foundation; the Assistance League of Southeastern Michigan; CCRT—the Catholic Community Response Team in Pontiac; the Baldwin Center in Pontiac; Hands of Hope; SandCastles Grief Support; FaithWorks; Neighborhood House; God’s Helping Hands, Power Company Kids Club, Dutton Farm, Blessings in a Backpack and Turning Point.
For more information on the 100 Women Who Care group or to sign a commitment form to join them, visit the website at: www.100womenwhocare-greaterrochester.org or contact Amy Whipple at firstname.lastname@example.org or (586) 254-1560.