This month Project POOCH was asked to participate in the II Congress of Bidirectional Assistance Projects, taking place virtually in Spain. It is a conference that that is intended to celebrate, share ideas around, and increase awareness of bidirectional aid, which describes a type of aid that benefits multiple recipients of a program. Project POOCH is a bidirectional aid program. In POOCH, both the youth participants and the shelter dogs they work with benefit from their involvement. Our youth learn patience, responsibility, compassion and trust, as well as vocational skills they are able to take with them when they reenter society, and our dogs are able to be placed in their forever homes.
Our program managers work hard to ensure both the youth and dogs chosen for the program are those most likely to see benefits from working together. After they apply, the youth admitted to the program go through a multi-level evaluation by both Maclaren Correctional Facility and Project POOCH to ensure there are no underlying safety concerns working with the dogs. They are also evaluated on their past experience with dogs and taken through an interview. Because POOCH is in part a vocational program, this process mirrors a job interview to give the youth experience in such situations to prepare them to find employment. The selection process for dogs is also comprehensive. We often select dogs who have been in a shelter for an extended period of time and are having a difficult time being placed in forever homes, whether it is because they are shutting down, extremely hyper, need training and/or socialization, or the shelter is overcrowded, as these dogs are likely to have the most to gain from our unique program. We don’t take dogs from private individuals because we are trying to teach the youth that dogs are a lifetime commitment regardless of situational changes. Many of the youth in our program have broken relationships with their families, so accepting a dog that has been given up by his or her human is very difficult for them. Ultimately, we aim to admit those youth and dogs that are likely to benefit the most from lessons in compassion, patience, and responsibility.
Other participating organizations in this conference include Ranch Hands Rescue, which pairs rescued farm animals that have suffered abuse and neglect with clients in deep psychotherapy counseling sessions, and Guardians of All Voiceless, whose primary focus is on rescuing, treating and sterilizing street animals along with teaching younger children to be empathetic to animals, among others. We at Project POOCH are honored to be asked to participate in this conference with such an important and diverse group of organizations on a global stage. We are excited to share our 30 years of experience, learn from the other inspiring organizations, and make connections with likeminded individuals that will strengthen all of our work.