Next week, on Tuesday, October 7th, Excelsior Youth Center will host a special event with Marshall the Miracle Dog! Marshall was a victim of severe abuse and neglect and is now on a mission to encourage children to put an end to bullying. Check out our event on Facebook if you’d like to come hear his inspiring story. You can learn more about Marshall and Excelsior’s Canine Therapy programs in our blog below, the first in a series of posts this month in honor of National Bullying Prevention Month!
Imagine being accompanied by a four-legged friend with a wet nose and wagging tail, who curls up in your lap or sits next to you while you talk about your personal problems. That’s what many of the girls at Excelsior Youth Center engage in on a weekly basis during Canine Therapy sessions. At Excelsior, we’ve seen firsthand the transformative role that dogs can play in the treatment of our girls.
Given that October is National Anti-Bullying month, we’re shining the spotlight on two of Excelsior’s programs that work to prevent bullying and improve self-esteem – Canine Healers and Paws 4 Trust. These Canine-Assisted Therapy programs aid our girls in the development of coping skills with the help of their favorite therapists – dogs! These programs are designed to teach the girls to experience empathy, practice positive learning techniques, develop personal awareness, engage in team building, grow in respect for individual differences, and above all, to find time to heal. “Paws 4 Trust has allowed me to bond with the dogs, build trust and show love,” said Michelle, an Excelsior resident. “I’ve gained the courage to try new things.” Excelsior began offering Canine Therapy more than seven years ago and has witnessed incredible benefits from offering these programs to our girls. With the assistance of a trained handler and licensed therapy dog, Excelsior therapists lead group sessions in which they identify different types of trauma, practice coping skills and share experiences.
Canine Therapy programs are structured to promote improvement in social, emotional and cognitive thinking, especially in at-risk youth. Studies have shown that youth in these programs experience less anxiety and tension when a therapy animal is present, as well as decreased stress, improved communication and social skills, and increased self-esteem. “Dog therapy helps girls to learn about trust and to look at their own interactions in ways that are unavailable through traditional therapeutic approaches,” said Carol, a Treatment Coordinator at Excelsior. Not only are the girls gaining healthy coping skills which translate into higher self-esteem, but the program is gaining momentum with increasing levels of enthusiasm for the outcomes. The girls are able to see the value of their impact in a concrete way, which helps them feel more positively about themselves.
In response to anti-bullying initiatives and to support our Canine Therapy programs, a special visitor is coming to Excelsior on October 7th, 2014. This popular pooch dubbed Marshall the Miracle Dog, was a victim of abuse, bullying, and neglect from his previous owners. He was rescued, overcame trauma, and has now become an inspiration to others by teaching children to be kind to themselves and others and to act with courage to stop bullying altogether. Marshall, who has inspired a children’s book and full length feature film, is a success story about overcoming adversity through empathy, strength, courage, kindness, and forgiveness. With his upcoming visit and presentation, we encourage everyone to show compassion and trust in the face of oppression, not only during Anti-Bullying month, but in everyday life.
For more information on Marshall, visit his website at http://www.marshallthemiracledog.com.