As part of a partnership with Paws Crossed Animal Rescue in Elmsford, kids at Children's Village are helping to train the rescue's shelter dogs to make it easier to place them into permanent homes.
Children’s Village, a home for teens with troubled backgrounds, found teens in foster care quickly identify similarities between their own circumstances and the animal in a rescue. This experience can assist with discussions surrounding the teens’ own permanency and placement.
"It's been great for our dogs and it's been really great for the kids too," Jennifer Angelucci, president of Paws Crossed said. "It helps them form new relationships."
The program started in September, and the students have worked 15 different dogs, ranging from puppies to 8 years old. The dogs work the students for about two to three weeks.
"The dogs have a slew of different problems," Angelucci said. "We have dogs that are high energy, dogs that don't listen. Dogs that are jumping all the time. "
Once the dogs and the kids meet and begin training, a strong bond soon forms, Angelucci said.
"It's extremely beneficial," Angelucci said. "The kids get to work with a non-judgmental partner. The dogs go from jumping up and down to sitting calmly in front of them. They no longer pull on the leash."
Adam Mallin works with the kids to help train the dogs at Children's Village. He has seen firsthand the way a dog can help one of the kids open up with their feelings.
"These kids come in with a chip on their shoulder," Mallin said. "But the dog is a neutral party. It really allows them to push their limits because they feel safe with the dog. The dog doesn't reject them."
Mallin, who previously did animal therapy with soldiers in Israel, said dogs are invited into the classroom and the kids realize they have to change their demeanor to get the dogs to come near him.
"You see these really tough kids and they start making silly noises," Mallin said. "The dogs come over and lie on their chest. They learn if you smile and giggle and make happy sounds, the dog reacts. If you make an angry face, the dog responds to that."
Seeing the transformation of the students is the best part for Mallin, who admits it's sometimes hard not to get emotional.
"You see a lot of kids that are guarded and then they have these delicate moments," Mallin said. "I have kids who didn't who know they were until we put a dog in front of them. The kids put down their layers and see you a different side to them. Once they open up, they start talking about their feelings and you get to know them better.
Since it held its grand opening last September, Paws Crossed, a no-kill shelter, has had more than 280 adoptions.
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