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Our Companions Animal Rescue: Build-A-Bear Youth Humane Education Grant Report

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

Grant funds are being used to engage youth 12-14 years old who would otherwise not have the opportunity to participate in a humane-education program such as The Buddy Project. The youth face a variety of social, educational, emotional and/or vocational challenges. By necessity, this is a small program that pairs at-risk youth with rescue dogs from Our Companions Animal Rescue. Canine participants have confronted hardships as well. They are often healing from very significant physical and/or emotional trauma. The youth receive specialized, one-to-one attention as they learn how to train rescue dogs. Training approaches are gentle, positive, humane methods. The students develop positive relationships with these dogs, which they can then apply to their experiences with people both at the Sanctuary and outside of the program sessions. Individualized goals for both the youth and canine participants are established and progress is monitored closely.

This grant award from the Petfinder Foundation removes financial barriers for youth ages 12-14 and allows them to remain involved in the program long-term. This allows the young people to participate long enough to see multiple dogs go through their own rehabilitation process and ultimately find homes.

Recently, a student from a special-education school enrolled in the program. He is 13 years old and lives in a foster home. He has experienced trauma in his life, having lost both parents and then his grandfather. He relates to the dogs at the Sanctuary who are also coping with feelings of abandonment. Upon enrollment in The Buddy Project, his therapist reported that he has a natural ability with dogs. She reported the following after his initial orientation session: “He went home and told his foster mom that it was the coolest thing he's doing (and he does a lot of activities) and he can't wait to go back next week. He also thought the Sanctuary was 'beautiful' and is excited to see the 'finished product' when the buildings are officially done. I thought it might brighten your week a bit to hear how great this program is for these kids.“

The student has been engaged in an orientation process, learning about dog body language, safety, and kind and ethical care of animals, as well as basic positive training principles and techniques. Having completed his initial orientation process, the youth will begin working with Lulu and Atlas. (See individual stories below.) When those dogs are adopted, he will be introduced to other dogs who need training to help prepare them for successful adoptions.

How many pets did this grant help?

This generous grant will allow Our Companions and The Buddy Project to accept more participants and allow those individuals to engage in long-term participation. It is anticipated that at least as many rescue dogs as were helped last year will benefit from engagement in the program this year. Last year there were several students who participated for over a year. Those long-term students worked with 18 different dogs over the course of their participation in the program.

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

Lulu, an 11-year-old bichon mix (first photo), arrived at the Sanctuary in August 2017. Her owner was homeless and was moving around frequently, staying with friends. This created a very stressful, unstable environment for Lulu. At the Sanctuary, Lulu has more stability and is thriving. Lulu is an adorable addition. The Buddy Project students are working with her on her leash-walking manners since she had little experience with this in her previous life.

Atlas (second photo) is a husky mix, approximately 9 years old and 89 lbs. He arrived at the Sanctuary in September 2017. He was transported from Florida to a kennel in Connecticut. He stayed at the kennel for several months. One of the volunteers at that kennel expressed concerns about his medical condition and brought this to the attention of Our Companions. He has an infection on his elbow that is now being treated. He also has numerous patches of missing fur from chemical burns. His history is unknown.

After he spent some time at the Sanctuary, it became clear how stable and calm he was. He is becoming another Buddy Project participant. He is learning basic training skills and enjoying long walks in the woods. The students are falling in love with him. As soon as his infection heals, he will be put up for adoption. Volunteers are already expressing interest in taking him home.

Grant funds and private donations have been instrumental in creating a scholarship program for the Buddy Project to allow students to participate in the program if private or agency funding is not available. In addition, funding allows successful students who are clearly benefiting from the program to remain involved on a long-term basis. Our Companions and The Buddy Project are sincerely grateful for the financial support that is allowing The Buddy Project to continue and to expand its valuable work.

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