GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — This week’s Connecting with Community finalist works to help the youth of Muskegon turn their lives around, while also training shelter dogs to help put up for adoption.
Operation Heading Home started only in 2016 as an idea to help match juvenile offenders with something positive to do. A local shelter had dogs that they were looking to rehabilitate and find them forever homes.
I was working with the youth in Muskegon that are on probation and always looking for something positive for them to do. We’ve got enough dogs around Muskegon that are looking for homes, why not use the resource of our juveniles to assist those dogs and finding a home.” explained Corey Agard, a probation officer in Muskegon who works with youths.
The teens that are part of the program work with the shelter dogs to help train them by working on basic obedience skills. The dogs also benefit from the weekly session by being able to socialize and be active.
Kids who are part of the judicial system, who are looking for ways home to get out of that system and paired up dogs who are part of a shelter system actually benefit from each other,” said Doug Wood of the Orchard View Community Center.
The youths get the chance to have a positive impact in the community, while also connecting with others and the animals they are paired with. The dogs in turn learn to listen to commands and interact with a variety of other people.
What came out of this is these animals were at the shelter had a lot in common with some of the backgrounds of the youth that are involved. It was just kind of a natural fit, because it was like these handlers and the dogs kind of understand each other.” Kim Wood, a founder of the program, has helped to make the connection between the dogs and youths a positive one.
Generally in their lives they haven’t had too many positive experiences, or too many achievements they can be proud of,” Agard notes, “They help the dogs get adopted, and in a lot of ways, the dog program helps them build up self-esteem and confidence.”
Ebony Franklin is a participant of Operation Heading Home. She feels that her time in the program has helped her to work past some of her previous history. “I’ve learned to put the past behind me, and make things better for myself. I’ve been learning to trust and love again.” Ebony also really enjoys working with the dogs because, “they’re so amazing and sweet, they remind me of how sweet things can be. They show me the bright side of things.”
You can learn more about Operation Heading Home here. Check back next Friday to learn about another partnership working to impact the local youth. The finalists and their air dates can be found on the Community page.