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Troubled teens CARE for dogs
Written by Greg Ruland   
Saturday, 06 November 2010 00:00

At first, Bruno Fierro, a 15-year-old with a troubled past, did not seem to care at all about Precious, a pit bull with a chance to learn and grow as part of a new program that proposes to link at-risk teens with canines.

Bruno Fierro, 15, a potential participant in the Canine Advocates for Rehabilitation and Education program, practices rewarding Precious for listening to simple commands at the Cottonwood Kids Park on Monday, Nov. 1. Debby Dobson, the founder of CARE, hopes to begin the program, which pairs at-risk teens with homeless dogs for canine training, as soon as fundraising for the new program gets further along.Their meeting at Kids Park on Monday, Nov. 1, started off with both the teen and the dog holding back. It didn’t take long, however, before Fierro and the animal began to interact. Within 10 minutes, the teen was kneeling, stroking the dog’s neck and feeding her treats.

It was proof of Debby Dobson’s theory that uniting at-risk teens with homeless dogs in a therapeutic learning environment can prepare the dogs for adoption and at the same time, assist juveniles to raise their self-esteem and make positive, life-affirming choices.

Dobson and her fellow board member, Marta Adelsman, are raising money and recruiting volunteers to get the duo’s program, Canine Advocates for Rehabilitation and Education, off the ground.

CARE proposes to link teens and dogs for an eight-week training program that prepares the dog for placement at an adoptive home, preferably one that includes a child with special needs who would benefit from a caring companion.

The first need that must be met before the program takes off is money to pay the cost of liability insurance, about $3,200, Dobson said.

“The other thing we are looking for is foster families who are willing to care for the dogs in their home during the training,” she said.

Dominique Morse, 17, who is working with Yavapai County Juvenile Probation to learn anger management and recover from a history of substance abuse, said Dobson’s idea was a good one.

“A lot of kids don’t know how to talk about their feelings,” Morse said. “Animals can help them open up. If you’re having a bad day, no matter what’s going on, they’ll always be there for you.”

Dobson said the idea for CARE germinated from her early experience as a teen counselor. In the early 1990s, she was having difficulty connecting with one of her female clients. To bridge the gap, she decided to take the girl to a local animal shelter.

“Her whole demeanor transformed the moment she stepped in,” Dobson said. “She laughed, smiled and talked.”

As dog trainers, the teens learn compassion, patience, teamwork and leadership skills. At the same time, the dogs learn basic obedience, preparing them for placement with a new owner, she said.

For more information, call 282-2550.


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