If you have ever whispered a secret to your dog raise your hand. Who was having a bad day when their pet out-of-the-blue came over to cuddle? The bond between humans and our pets is special. This real connection can have a positive influence on both human and animal.
To witness the human-animal bond demonstrated between a therapy dog and a distressed child is amazing. Dogs have a way of getting to the heart of the matter real quick. Feeling out of sorts? In my house it doesn't surprise me anymore when my dog senses my down mood, then gets so close to me I'm compelled to turn my attention to her, and away from my discomfort.
Trained to encourage kids, a dog gives fearlessly
After sitting in a shelter a long time, imagine a sickly discarded dog finding not only his forever family but his perfect job -- in the process earning a 2014 Hero Dog Award nomination. Read Charles and Bentley's inspiring adoption story, and how this therapy dog team has found its calling helping our youth.
Charles Parkins lived in Florida when he and his daughter met RX. Charles was interested in adopting a dog who he could train as a therapy dog to work with him in the West Palm Beach, Florida Juvenile Detention Center.
Charles writes, "My daughter and I went to Big Dog Ranch Rescue and while looking at the 400+ dogs available for adoption we entered the “big dog barn” and were greeted by row after row of excited barking dogs. As we looked at all the dogs we found “RX” sitting in his kennel looking at us, not barking. We learned that RX had been there for awhile. He was found in the parking lot of a national pharmacy chain in a dumpster. He was heartworm positive."
They adopted RX and renamed him Bentley in honor of his new life. As Bentley went through months of heartworm treatment, Charles recovered from a hip replacement. While they both slowly recuperated together they grew very close. Charles also began working on Bentley's training.
"Life has a funny way of changing direction..."
Soon after they'd both healed, Charles took a job in Indianapolis, Indiana as the superintendent of the Marion Superior Court Juvenile Detention Center. Bentley was a big hit with the court administrators and judges. He began to join Charles every day at the Center. Bentley met with kids who are having a difficult time adjusting to their stay at the juvenile detention center.
Kids could request to meet with Bentley, and soon he was doing tricks, playing ball, or just being brushed by different kids each day. "Kids opened up while interacting with Bentley and spoke about issues that normally they would not, personal issues. Their interactions with Bentley transitioned into trusting relationships with me, which then helped me assess their needs," Charles said.
Soon Bentley began receiving referrals from mental health therapists, lawyers, magistrates, judges, and line staff. He works in the Center full time. He has his own office, a therapy room with a couch, beanbag chair, dog treats, a saltwater fish tank, and a beautiful mural on the wall. Kids are able to get away from the constant reminder of being in a juvenile detention center and escape for a minutes to a place that is calm, peaceful, and get attention from someone who doesn't care what they may or may not have done. Bentley doesn't judge.
Paws and Think, Inc.
Bentley and Charles work with an Indianapolis non-profit organization, Paws and Think, Inc. They attend public events, help train new dogs, and have started a Youth Canine program in partnership with the Marion Superior Court Juvenile Detention Center, Indianapolis Animal Care and Control, and Paws and Think, Inc. In this program kids train dogs who are having a difficult time becoming adopted. As the kids work with the dogs, they themselves gain self-esteem, develop compassion, trust, and learn about positive reinforcement.
2014 Hero Dog Award Nominee
Currently, Bentley is among the 150 dogs being voted for through June 3rd to move into the semi-finals. As Charles says, "Winner or no, Bentley is excited about going to work everyday and making a real difference in the lives of kids and the staff at the Marion Superior Court Juvenile Detention Center."
In the Indy area? The next set of classes with dogs from Marion County Animal Care and Control will begin on May 12th. The dogs will all be featured through Paws and Think, Inc. (www.pawsandthink.org).
Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Florida