Echo Glen’s Canine Connections program is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month. Since 1990, Echo Glen has taken in service dogs and pound puppies for youth to train and prepare for adoption. The Canine Connections program takes in dogs with behavioral issues, like being overly exuberant or untrained, and shows youth how to rehabilitate them.
“The dogs are damaged and are about to be put down for their behavior,” says Canine Connections Coordinator Tina Reeves. “The kids can relate. They are rescuing them, saving their lives and helping to find them homes.”
Echo Glen dedicates a portion of facility property to Canine Connections, with fenced-in yards, kennels, washtubs and grooming stations. The youth work with the dogs for about two months, providing basic command training like “sit,” “down” and “stay.” The training also includes leash breaking, indoor manners and socialization, meet and greets with other dogs and even 4H training in the agility course.
“The kids ignore unwanted behaviors in the dog and replace them with new, positive behaviors. It’s a great connection for them to make during their own treatment,” says Tina.
Additionally, Echo Glen provides a weekly animal science class that lends itself to the program. Youth learn from teachers with veterinary technician backgrounds. They learn about everything from x-rays and bones to taking and analyzing samples. Some youth gain clerical skills in assisting with adoption paperwork and record-keeping. With this education and training, youth are empowered and equipped to pursue industry jobs. One youth event went on to work in a zoo and another enrolled in veterinary school.
“I think what I like about this program is it gives the kids an opportunity to be who they are meant to be. Some kids have guards. They have been in gangs. They are real tough and don’t show their soft side. Then you see them googly-eyed with their dogs. It gives them a safe place,” says Tina.
The Canine Connection program is listed on the State Combined Funds list and is primarily funded through donations from the community and fundraisers.
“It’s definitely a village that helps run the program and I want to recognize that,” says Tina.
Thanks to Echo Glen youth and the community involved in the Canine Connection program, these dogs get a new lease on life and all the help they need in finding their forever homes. Please join us in celebrating Echo Glen with this 20-year milestone!