Project POOCH is not just a job working with and rescuing dogs. It has been a place for me to break down barriers of character flaws that I wouldn’t have been able to do on my own.
Working with shelter dogs has helped me with compassion and caring for others and my surroundings. The dogs helped me be more aware of my emotions as well. I now know that I have more feelings than just anger or being fine. Now it’s even okay for me to shed tears from time to time.
I’ve also been able to learn various skills while working at POOCH. I first and foremost have learned quite a bit about handling dogs such and grooming, training and general knowledge and care of dogs. We also do all of the maintenance needs at the kennels and have even remodeled the kennels. I have also had the opportunity to learn computer skills and various software programs such as Photoshop and Microsoft Excel.
Project POOCH has also been able to help me with my social skills in dealing with people from the public as well as holding conversations with our volunteers that come in periodically to help out with dogs and the guys in the program. All in all, Project POOCH has helped make me the person I am today. Without POOCH I don’t think I could have even become the respectable, mature individual that I now am now. I am forever grateful to be a part of POOCH and how it has helped me as a human being.
At Project POOCH we are often amazed at the long term impact the program has had on the youth that we've served. Here is a letter recently sent to us from a former Project POOCH youth.
"I just wanted to say hi. I also wanted you to know that I am very happy to see that you have been able to keep Project POOCH up and running. It is a wonderful program. I know from experience that the program works, and it works in ways that the incarcerated youth are not able to see right now. After being out of Maclaren for over a decade, I must say that the people, dogs and instructors continually touch my life. Everyday. I am not sure if the youth realize, truly realize, what you are doing for them....I am not sure if you remember me or not, but I wanted you to know I really appreciate you, your program and your dedication. I often wonder about Project POOCH and to this day wish I could still be a part of it. It's a wonderful program. Thank you for keeping it going and hopefully growing"
I was born in Oaxaca, Mexico. I’ve always been around animals because my parents always had lots of dogs, but I never thought that one day I would be working on training dogs and helping them to be good dogs. I know that I’m not only helping the dogs. I’m helping myself.
It used to be that dogs were, to me, just like any other animal. But, with time in POOCH, they became something special in my life. Some of them were bad dogs that came here. Just like me. I was a bad person in my community. But now I teach the dogs to be good dogs so they can go to a new home, and it makes me feel really good when I see my dog take off for a new home. I can see he’s happy with his new family.
My life has changed a lot because of helping the dogs. They’re helping me at the same time I’m helping them. I used to be a troublemaker before I started working in this program, but now that I know that there’s someone up there in the kennel waiting for me, I choose to take care of business so I can be with my dog all day. I became a responsible person because I now that my dog depends on me.
Everybody deserves a second chance. We give that chance to dogs that need it.
I’ve been working at Project POOCH for two and a half years. The most rewarding thing about being part of POOCH is being able to see one of my dogs become a successful member of a family. This is a gratifying experience because I get to see a dog that came in with almost no chance of landing in a caring home. Yet, with training and the right family, all the work with the dog pays off in the end.
I haven’t been in the POOCH program as long as many of the others, but here’s how I see it: I want to spend as much time as possible with the dogs. At the same time, though, I still have to go to school so I can’t spend as much time as I want.
But when I’m here, I like training the dogs. I especially like when I tell the dog to sit and he does it. I feel good about that because I never had a dog like that before.
People who have been in the program longer that I have usually have their own dog to work with. I’m looking forward to having one of my own to work with, but in the meantime, I like walking and working with any dog.
I enjoy working in POOCH because of the dogs and the people in this program.
In the past, I used to not be concerned with much besides my own needs, but I realize this wasn’t very healthy for me. But now, when I walk up to the entrance to POOCH and I hear all the barking coming from the kennels, I get excited. By working and being with these dogs, I find myself caring more and more about how they are and how they’re progressing in their training. I also think about how they’re doing every day that I’m away from them.
Being taught to care for and appreciate these animals, along with the interaction we have with people from the outside, we learn to have compassion for things other than ourselves. Project POOCH is a great idea, and I hope that ideas such as this one will be used in other correctional facilities as a way of motivating people who need to learn to show kindness, friendship, trust and compassion.
I want to learn more about training dogs because eventually I’d like to be a professional trainer. I really want to work with German Shepherds.
I want to train dogs to sit at my command, and to heel and to walk close. Heel and walking close I feel are hard to learn, but I imagine my German Shepherd doing those things well because he learned them from me!
When I started working at Project POOCH, I noticed how difficult it was for me to train dogs. I really thought that this job wasn't for me. I learned more stuff from experienced guys and once I got the hang of it my dogs seemed to come and go very quickly. Being able to understand a dog's behavior and how they react to different things was very difficult for me at first, so I paid lots of attention and slowly started building a bond with the dogs.
After being at Project POOCH for two years, my training techniques are getting better and I have accomplished many adoptions . I'm always comfortable with the depth of emotion I have for the dogs. That is why I am patient in giving the dogs the affection and compassion they need.
Thanks to the support of community volunteers, the youth are sometimes offered a chance to learn new and exciting ways to bond with their dogs. These special events are not only fun for the youth and dogs, but give the youth an opportunity to develop their problem solving skills, increase their listening skills and practice their social skills. In addition, positive experiences like these help the to youth develop the self confidence they will need to build healthy relationships in the future.
On a recent Saturday, volunteers from Cascade Sled Dog Club showed the human side of POOCH how to harness their dogs’ natural abilities and enjoy dog-powered sports. The youth guided their dogs through drills aimed at teaching both dogs and soon-to-be- mushers the skills and commands necessary to pull a sled scooter, or a person on skis. Both dogs and youth were receptive to the training, so everyone was ready to try his or her hands (or paws) at scootering by the end of the session. The young men put on special belts, helped their dogs into harnesses connected from a tow line to their belts, mounted scooters. and told their dogs to “Go!” Every dog/youth team made its way at least once around the POOCH kennel. They were encouraged by a lot of yelling and laughter from the volunteers and each other. It’s tough to say who had the most fun—the volunteers, the dogs, or the youth. There are definitely some promising mushers and sled dogs in POOCH!
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