July 12, 2021
Youth in the detention facility often display hostile and aggressive behavior in their programming – towards other residents, towards staff, specifically towards those in a position of authority. The youth, such as this one, feel justified in their actions because they are angry or hurt and it is more painful to show sadness and vulnerability than it is to channel that emotion into angry outbursts. This youth is no different. He had been suspended from school for flipping over his desk and yelling at his teacher. He punched a wall in his unit when something didn’t go his way. The one place where he could relax and just experience the now was with the dogs. He worked diligently with Henry and taught him to sit, stay, stay for 20 seconds, at a distance, shake, high five, and more. Meeting this youth in the program, it would be hard to believe that his behavior was so different outside of the dog training room. In our classroom education, he was the one who wanted to talk about his dog first, share insights about the similarities between him and his dog. This is the power of the human animal bond in action. Henry (nor our staff) hung on to how he behaved in the past. We talked about the importance of second chances…and even third chances with the dogs…and with the youth. He smiled often and radiated pride in his dog’s accomplishments…which of course were his own.