Debby Dobson, demonstrates to a teen
how to get a dog’s attention while doing basic obedience
A teenage girl tries her hand at teaching a dog some
COTTONWOOD - Everyone knows of the positive things that happen when dogs
visit nursing homes or hospitals. People just simply react with joy to
the wag of a tail, and, for a few moments, troubles such as illness or
loneliness are forgotten.
Debby Dobson, a certified recovery coach, experienced
youth counselor and owner of Good Dog! Animal Behavior, knows that when
troubled, at-risk teenagers and homeless dogs are put together, some
remarkable things can happen.
She saw this first hand years ago while working with a
teenage girl client. The girl was withdrawn and communicated only with
one-syllable words: yes, no. Not knowing what to do during her time
together with the girl, Debby took her to a local animal shelter.
Debby says she watched with amazement as the girl's
"whole demeanor transformed the moment she stepped in.
"At the time, I was unaware of animal assisted therapy,
but I knew I had stumbled onto something important, something that could
be used as an effective tool to reach troubled teens."
Now Debby intends to put that tool to work in a
repeatable program that helps at-risk teens and at the same time helps
needy dogs. The program also will help the surrounding communities. She
says the program is "truly a win-win-win situation."
To that end, Debby has founded C.A.R.E. (Canine
Advocates for Rehabilitation and Education). She has learned about
animal assisted therapy, and she says it is used across the country to
help reach troubled teens. There are many such programs, and the success
of these programs is documented.
Debby intends for her program to not only help at-risk
teens but also to help dogs find desperately needed homes.
Her method will put the dogs and teens together by
having the teens train the dogs in basic obedience. Being trained will
make the dogs more adoptable while the teens are improving their
self-image and learning some important life and social skills.
That will help shelters find homes for more dogs, and
that in turn helps communities
"When you're around dogs," Debby said, "it doesn't
matter if you're having a bad day. The dogs accept you no matter what."
She says there is no program out there that is a magic
bullet, no panacea. "But when kids are around animals, they're relaxed,
and when they're relaxed, I can talk to them.
"These dogs and these kids have a lot in common," Debby
said. "No one has taken time to teach them. No one has invested any time
She said the kids can see the positive effect on the
dogs. "I want these kids to be able to see that what they are doing is
helping the dog. That what they are doing has an immediate benefit."
Debby said the teens are helping the dogs because the
dogs will have a better chance of being adopted. The kids will learn
patience, responsibility, compassion, anger management and teamwork
during the program. Some of the teens that go through the program will
become leaders and mentors within the program.
Debby's goal is to have this program up and running
this fall. But first, she must build some community interest and
support, and she also must find some individuals and organizations that
believe in the program enough to step forward with assistance and
donations. Debby said that just the cost of liability insurance will
cost more than $3,000.
For more information contact Debby Dobson at (928)
282-2550, or go online to firstname.lastname@example.org. A complete program overview
is available at caredogs.org.