The City’s Best Friend

The City’s Best Friend

“The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his Heaven, not man’s.”

We couldn’t agree more, Mr. Twain.

Our loyal readers know that The Forum is staffed with unabashed champions of canine causes. In fact, Cocoa, a precocious ball of endless energy otherwise recognized as a chocolate Labrador; and Massimo, a Cane Corso that has been our steadfast sentinel for the past four years, are even vital cogs of our bustling newsroom.

(Yes, Gov. Cuomo. They have the W2’s to prove it.)

Our love for man’s eternal companion led us to the desire to shine a well-deserved light on a new City Administration for Children’s Services program featuring our favorite furry friends. According to ACS, more than a dozen teenagers involved in the City juvenile justice system are being taught how to train dogs to become certified therapy animals. The paid vocational program aims to promote positive behavioral changes among at-risk youth so that they can successfully transition back into their communities.

The youth participating in the program currently reside in Close to Home residences operated by Rising Ground, a nonprofit human services organization that provides children, adults, and families in the greater New York City area with the resources and skills needed to help them rise above adversity and positively direct their lives. Close to Home is a juvenile justice reform initiative that has allowed New York City youth who have been adjudicated juvenile delinquents to be placed in residential care with ACS near their home communities. ACS partners with nonprofit agencies, like Rising Ground, to deliver strengths-based programs that support their treatment and help them transition back into their communities.

According to ACS, the purpose of the dog training program is two-fold. First, the paid work experience provides the youth with new skills that can be leveraged when leaving Close to Home and entering the workforce. Second, the program aims to promote positive behavioral changes that will help them transition into productive adults. Specifically, research suggests that the act of petting animals releases an automatic relaxation response and can lower anxiety, provide comfort, and reduce loneliness.

“What is beautiful about training therapy dogs is that it has multiple benefits for our youth,” Lisa Crook, Rising Ground’s vice president of Justice for Youth and Families. “Not only do the juveniles learn to be responsible for another being and get a taste of what a career in dog-training might be like, they also get all the therapeutic benefits animals have to offer.”

As part of the dog training program, approximately a dozen at-risk youth had the opportunity to work with a certified master dog trainer at Backcountry K-9 Training. The youth were taught how to train dogs to become certified therapy animals. The dogs included: Simon (yorkie), Murphy (vizsla; much like the vizsla pictured) and Jay Mo (pitbull mix).

Best of luck to ACS and the youth involved in this incredible initiative.

And a tip of the cap to Simon, Murphy, and Jay Mo. Thank you for the work you do and for being you.


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