Helping Paws is Helping Local Kids with Their Future

(Gillette, Wyo.) Is there a way to teach both dogs and teenagers the sort of life skills they need to survive, at the same time? In Campbell County there is. Fred Isaack works at the Juvenile Detention Center at the Sheriff's Office. In his spare time he's started "Helping Paws", a program that combines the dogs up for adoption at the Gillette Animal Shelter with kids from the crisis shelter. For the past year, "at-risk" youth from the Youth Emergency Services House have been attending classes at the shelter once a week, to learn how to train dogs basic obedience commands, and get them socialized. It's a way to help the dogs become more desirable for those looking to adopt a pet that's already trained and housebroken. It's also helping the kids become more social, as well. "We're hoping that with the skills the dogs learn, they can find a forever home and be able to stay there," said Isaack. "With the kids, we enjoy watching them work with the animals. You go from kids being really nervous at the beginning to really opening up by the end." [image: 20160608_171904[1].jpg] The first thing every dog learns is how to recognize their own name, something Ice (seen above with trainer Jessica Jones) was surrendered for this week. The dogs also learn how to sit, stay, and come: the four basics most prospective pet owners are looking for when they adopt. Jones is with PAWS Academy, and has been volunteering her time for Helping Paws. She's also spent time at the YES House as a kid. "I was in their boat. I've been there, I know what happens," she told County 17. "The biggest problem when I was there is that I didn't have any self-worth. I didn't feel like anybody wanted me. But the dogs want them. They love them." One teenager that started with Helping Paws didn't like dogs at all and would sit in the corner during class. "He's now trained three dogs," said Jones. "That's the best part -- we get to see them come out of their shells. It's amazing to see their confidence build up." [image: 20160608_172243[1].jpg] *Lady and CJ were two of the dogs trained this week by YES House kids. CJ has had his voice box removed at some point and relies on Lady, the poodle, to get around. They're hoping to be adopted together.* Since the start of the program, every single dog they've trained has been adopted. Jones estimates that's over 100 dogs. Learning patience and how to listen through their connection with the animals is something that's invaluable to a child looking for a permanent safe home, too. "Hopefully when they leave here they'll have better success out in society," said Isaack. "A lot of these kids have been told for so long that everything they do is wrong. It's neat to see that they can have fun working towards something and accomplish something productive." Jones will be starting classes in Arizona when she moves there at the end of the year, and hopes to make Helping Paws a nationwide program. Unfortunately that leaves Gillette without a dog trainer for next year, something Isaack has already started searching for. If you're interested in donating treats for the kids to use (currently it's paid for out of pocket) or know someone who would like to volunteer or become a Helping Paws trainer, you can contact PAWS Academy on their Facebook page or at (307) 281-0420. #county17 #news