One of our favorite accomplishments during our 25th year of service to incarcerated youth and adoptable dogs came in a four-legged, tail wagging form. On May 15th, a volunteer from a shelter in Modesto, California reached out to us asking if we could take in King, a 5-year-old Pit Bull Mix. The community that King lived in was overcrowded with pit bulls, and people simply did not want to adopt them—with King living in a busy shelter with hundreds of other dogs, the volunteer knew that King would have a better chance with us at Project POOCH. Along with her inquiry, the volunteer sent videos of King playing and interacting beautifully with kids and other dogs. That was when we knew we had to consider taking him. This sweet boy deserved a chance.
At Project POOCH, we like to involve the youth in our program at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in the dog selection process as much as possible, so we brought some pictures of King down to the correctional facility and read the youth his bio. They got so excited about the opportunity to work with such a sweet, handsome dog that we knew we had to say yes to King. Pit bulls are often marginalized in the same way that many of our youth are, so our youth were immediately drawn to this adorable boy and able to relate. At Project POOCH, we like helping the “underdogs,” or the dogs who are less likely to be adopted due to breed, age, personality, or health issues, so King was a great fit for our program.
With the decision to save King made, we had a lot of planning to do to prepare him for the long journey ahead of him! We soon learned that getting a dog from California to Oregon would not be easy. Before King could cross state lines, we had to work remotely with a veterinarian in King’s area to make sure that he received all the necessary vaccines and health certificates for his travels. Luckily, the same kind volunteer who introduced us to King’s plight took him to his vet appointments and even dropped him off with the transporters of the Rescue Express Bus, an animal transport service that takes dogs from overcrowded, high-kill shelters to areas where they will be able to thrive. Thus, King began his long, 14-hour journey to a new life.
King was scheduled to arrive at the bus stop in Tualatin in the middle of the night, where POOCH founder Joan Dalton was eagerly awaiting his arrival. Between providing basic care for the animals being transported and traffic, transport timelines can often get messy. We were soon notified that the bus was running behind schedule, so Joan patiently waited in her car for a few hours not knowing what to expect. Just after dawn, with Joan’s excitement brewing, the bus rolled up, and off came King, with a big smile on his face and his tail wagging, even after such a long journey.
King still had one more leg left in his arduous adventure! It was time for him to make his way to the Kennel with Joan. It’s a couple months since his arrival, and King has settled in nicely. King is currently living happily with the youth, who train him, groom him, feed him, and play with him daily while he awaits his forever home. He is doing well with his training that he even gets to go back to the living units with the youth, where he sleeps at night. King absolutely loves following the youth around wherever they go, and he even tried agility for the first time while at Project POOCH. He recently represented Project POOCH at an outreach event at Fido’s Tap House in Tualatin, where he made so many new friends. King passed his canine good citizen test and is now just waiting for the right family to take him home. Three potential adopters came to look at him last week, and we are confident that he will find his forever home soon.
Thank you to each and every one of you whom have supported Project POOCH and our mission for the past 25 years. Without you, we would not be able to rescue dogs like King, who may not have had a chance otherwise. Because of your kindness and generosity, we are not only able to take dogs from local shelters in the area that are deemed “unadoptable” and turn them into great pets, but we were also able to rescue dogs from other states where the need is greatest. Because of your support, our youth are able to learn patience, responsibility, and compassion by working with dogs of different breeds, sizes, ages, and personality types. Here’s to 25 more years of helping dogs and youth!
At Project POOCH, we believe in second chances. It's incredible to see the things that people are capable of when given another chance at life. Sometimes all it takes is some patience, compassion, and individualized attention in order for people to achieve what they were always capable of. Two former Project POOCH youths in particular continue to inspire us with their actions and accomplishments.
Eli has never been in trouble since re-entering society several years ago. He has taken the passion for dogs that he developed while at Project POOCH, and he currently uses his dog as a partner to counsel young children to stay out of gangs. Eli grew up in an area where gangs and poverty were the norm. When a rival gang member shot his dog, anger and a hot temper led Eli to retaliate, and it was that retaliation that put Eli in juvenile lock up. When Eli worked with the dogs at Project POOCH, he recognized some of his own behavior issues in the dogs. Some of the dogs that Eli worked with were labeled "unadoptable" because they too had short tempers and reacted on instinct. The dogs at Project POOCH became Eli's passion, and he knew that he would have to change if he wanted to turn his life around and also help them find their forever homes.
Former POOCH youth Juan left juvenile incarceration two years ago and has taken advantage of a scholarship opportunity to attend a local community college. He is majoring in business. He is using the skills he learned at Project POOCH, like working on a team and time management, in order to excel in his courses. He has emerged as a natural leader and never dreamed that he would be considered for a special leadership program. Since he is attending a college with a daycare for children of students', his young daughter is experiencing superb childcard with teachers representing different cultures. While Juan is learning about the business world, his daughter reports that she is having fun learning words in different languages.
Here's to a lifetime of success for Eli and Juan!
Roger immigrated to the United States with his family when he was seven years old. His parents were hoping to start a new life in the United States and provide Roger with more opportunities. Roger struggled to adjust to life in his new home and had a hard time learning English. At school, his peers taunted him with racial slurs, and Roger began to get into fights. When called to the school office, he did not know what the principal was saying to him, but he knew he was in trouble. His father would spank him to try to encourage better behavior in his son.
Roger eventually decided he had enough and dropped out of high school his freshman year. He began living with friends and working in construction. He rebelled against his family, angry that his father never gave him the kind of love and attention he saw American kids receiving from their parents. Roger’s next few years consisted of drug use and fighting. One particular fight landed him in county jail, and upon being released, the parents of the boy that Roger had assaulted decided to file charges against him. He was charged with assault level 2 & 3 and ended up in MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility for 36 months.
Then there was Kiera—the dog that helped change Roger’s life. Kiera did not pass any of the tests to find her forever home and became a “lifer” at Project POOCH. Before coming to the shelter, Kiera had been chained outside for her whole life and used as a guard dog. She was very thin and malnourished when she first came to Project POOCH, but somehow she was still able to give Roger the love and attention that he felt he had been lacking for his whole life. Roger started to bond with Kiera and really enjoyed walking her around campus. In addition to working with Kiera during his time at MacLaren, Roger also participated in drug and alcohol treatment, earned his high school diploma, and started woodworking.
As Roger approached the end of his sentence, he felt excited to re-enter society with all his newly acquired skills, but he couldn’t help but worry about leaving Kiera behind. Joan, the founder of Project POOCH, made a deal with Roger. If he stayed out of trouble, she would bring Kiera to a mutual meeting place for a visit every so often.
Indeed, Roger followed through on his promise, not only staying out of trouble, but also attending a two-year college and working a part-time job. Project POOCH was able to pay his first-term tuition and also provide him with books for his classes. Roger made amends with his family and began attending church with his father again. One time, Kiera even spent the night at their house! Roger ended up meeting his wife at the church, and they are both thriving and looking forward to spending a lifetime together. Meanwhile, Kiera is enjoying life in her foster home and still gets to meet up with Roger.