K9 Connection is an LA-based animal rescue program that helps both animals and young members of the local community. Katherine Beattie and Pat Sinclair founded the program in 2004 after meeting as volunteers for another humane education program. Inspired by the bond they saw between at-risk youth and dogs, the two researched the few programs they could find around the country and established an animal rescue program of their own that would pair eight at-risk students with eight shelter dogs. K9 Connection now conducts seven three-week programs a year and checks in monthly with all alumni.
According to co-founder Katherine Beattie, participants "meet five days a week for two hours a day, and during the course of the program the students train the dogs in basic obedience [with training techniques developed by lead trainer and adviser Lynn Medlin] with the goal of making the dogs more adoptable. At the end of each three-week program we have a graduation celebration where the students show what the dogs have learned and then make oral presentations to the audience before receiving their diplomas." The one student, one dog ratio and the long-term follow up the founders have with their students is unique to the K9 connection.
The program chooses teens based on referrals from counselors at continuation high schools and works directly with West Los Angeles city shelter to rescue dogs for the program.
The program, Beattie finds, has had an enormous impact not only on the dogs they are able to rescue but on the students as well. "Teachers, counselors and principals tell us that this program is a tipping point for students who up to then have had a very marginal relationship with school," Beattie says. "We have a growing number of students who have graduated from high school, which is a huge achievement for these kids. Most of our students are in continuation schools and many work full-time, often being responsible for helping to support their families. Many of them come from homes where one or both parents may be deceased, or in prison, or on drugs. Quite a few are in foster homes. Many of kids we work with at Vista Del Mar, a residential treatment facility, have been in up to ten previous placements. The students always tell us that they learn patience and responsibility from their dogs -- and many of them who have a history of truancy start coming to school every day, not wanting to let their dog down." As for the animals, K9 Connection has a 100% adoption rate for all the shelter dogs that have gone through the program. Since beginning seven years ago, the program has been able to find homes for about 200 dogs.
K9 Connections ultimate goal, Beattie says, is "to have the ability and tools necessary to export our program, curriculum, training methods to other organizations and individuals who would like to work in a similar manner to help both youths and dogs." To see the dogs currently available through K9 Connection, click the link below.
Photos and captions courtesy of K9 Connection.