Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Just short of a miracle

Humane educator Ashley Dacey sits with Billy,
an OHS dog currently benefitting from the
L.E.A.D Program. His favourite toy, the green
monkey in this photo, was given to him
by one of the youth in the program.

Many people don’t know this, but years before I worked for the Ottawa Humane Society, I worked for the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa-Carleton (YSB) for over 11 years.  Because of my long history working with troubled young people, it’s not surprising that one of the OHS programs that most engages me is L.E.A.D.
L.E.A.D. stands for Leadership Education with Adolescents and Dogs. The Program pairs “needs-work-before-adoption” dogs with young people at-risk, generally at the Roberts-Smart Centre on the Royal Ottawa Campus, or at a YSB detention Centre—like the current session. 

Over several weeks, the young people learn to groom and train the dogs.  Through the program, dogs become more adoptable.  But much more amazing things happen to the young people. 

The OHS Humane Education coordinator tells me that the program staff and volunteers begin as strangers and intruders, but shortly after the dogs arrive, they are guests and confidants. The young people learn to communicate better with a creature that doesn’t judge.  They learn empathy for a dog that is, in many ways, like them. They learn compassion for an animal that depends on them.
Dogs and young people together are a natural.  When we can help both adjust to the world better, it’s just short of a miracle.

Bruce Roney
Ottawa Humane Society Executive Director
Click here for more information about the L.E.A.D. Prgoram and other Humane Education initiatives at the OHS.

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