Cover Story: Going to the Dogs

“One is all about reading, where kids can practice reading to the dog in a safe environment. If they’re uncomfortable with their reading skills or abilities, you couldn’t ask for a better place to take some risks and be as vulnerable as you can when you practice those skills with a dog,” she said.

Gabriel’s Angels is also doing small group interactions where the children work on some of the core values that will help them as they grow and mature. And, teams from Gabriel’s Angels are making community visits where groups of children have an opportunity to interact with pets.

The results of the reading program have been tangible, as have the behavioral benefits for the students.

“It improves their coping skills, and in the reading group, you can see drastic improvements in reading skills,” Quine said. “Kids that have the opportunity to practice with the dog have seen significant growth academically. And those students’ reading abilities, comprehension, fluency — they are improving in all of that.”

But the improvements are more than academic. “Their whole presence is calmer, and it allows them to not only identify what those coping strategies are but to really feel them,” Quine said. “When we can feel the impact of something, it’s much more likely that we’re going to continue to practice it, because we like how it feels. We want to experience that all over again.”

Steimer said the organization is working diligently to plan for the future and expand its impact. Schools are an important part of that. She even sees Gabriel’s Angels as a resource in addressing issues such as school absenteeism and other core issues students and families face.

“Something we’ve been seeing lately is a shift in this realization that pet therapy has a place in helping to heal kids and to help kids show up at school more,” she said. “If we can bring the expertise of understanding how the pet can be brought into the solutions, that’s what we’re looking to do over the next 10 years.”

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About Tom Evans

Tom Evans is Contributing Editor of Frontdoors Media and the Senior Vice President at Lumen Strategies

From Frontdoors Magazine

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