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Dog club trains MacLaren youths

The nonprofit club partners with Project POOCH of MacLaren Correctional

There was a moment the two groups forgot their differences.

'It's pretty astounding when you're in the middle of a prison,' said Kate Stebbins, a Cascade Sled Dog Club member.

Saturday, representatives from the club, including Sandy residents Kim Tinker and Lois Luckeroth, delivered pull gear to Project POOCH, a rehabilitation program at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn.

The nonprofit organization has paired incarcerated youths with homeless shelter dogs since 1993, while the Cascade Dog Sled Club, also a nonprofit organization, is a group of people who participate in and promote dog-powered sports, including sledding and skijoring.

'The connection is a mutual affection and enjoyment of big, strong, high-energy dogs,' Stebbins said. Stebbins' dog, Roy, is from Project POOCH.

A year ago the sled club offered youth a half-day training at the Project POOCH kennel, and after a second spring training, the youth wrote a grant request for gear from the WHH Foundation to continue their training.

'You can tell their excitement about it -- just being around the dogs is so healthy for them,' Tinker said. 'Dogs are so unconditional. Many of these kids have had little positive reinforcement in their lives, and dogs show that's a possibility.'

Helping to stretch grant dollars by locating used, donated and at-cost gear, Tinker's skijoring outfitter business donated part of the gear.

'The boys were extremely polite and well-trained,' Stebbins said of the 12 youth. 'They began reserved and by the end of the training, had big smiles and were asking how long it would take to train their dogs.'

For more information about Cascade Dog Sled Club and Project POOCH, visit cascadesleddogclub.com and pooch.org.