With one dog and one youth, Joan Dalton created the Project Pooch program in 1993.
At that time, Dalton was vice principal at Lord High School on the campus of MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn, Oregon. This year, Project Pooch celebrates 15 years of successfully matching youths and dogs in order to save and to enhance the quality of life for both youth and dog. The 15th anniversary celebration highlights the dedication and desire of so many who have contributed to the program's success thus far.
The anniversary celebration year will culminate on Thursday, Nov. 20, when Project Pooch holds its annual fundraiser, Pooch in the Pub, at MacTarnahan's Taproom, 2730 N..W 31st Ave., Portland.
Project Pooch provides opportunities for youth in corrections to develop the personal and vocational skills they will need to become responsible, productive members of the community. The program accomplishes this by teaching youth to care for and to train shelter dogs for adoption. This mission statement to learn responsibility, patience and compassion for all life reflects the impassioned commitment of the staff and the volunteers at Project Pooch.
This unique non-profit organization is entirely supported by private donations. Project Pooch enjoys community partnerships with such companies as Petco, Castor and Pollux, Buena Vista Custom Homes, Pedigree, local veterinarians and many other businesses, individuals and foundations. Funds are used to care for the dogs, to groom them, to feed and house them, to prepare them to find new adoptive 'forever homes.'
According to Dalton, who serves as the program's executive director, 'The youth work daily with their dogs. Positive reinforcement and behavior modification are key principals to success. The youth, in turn, learn to manage their own behavior. In addition, they earn school credits, develop good work habits, and learn occupational skills. The relationships, emotional support and trust bonded between youth and their dogs are vital to success. As a result, the love connection serves as a bridge to the self-confidence the youth will want to have to build future relationships.'
Recently, Sandra Merriam, Ph. D., Pepperdine University, surveyed MacLaren staff and youth enrolled in the program in structured interviews. She reported participants in the Project Pooch program have shown a marked decrease in aggression towards others. They also demonstrate growth in leadership skills and in their ability to work in groups. Project Pooch dogs leave the program ready to be wonderful companion pets. Their trainers re-enter the community with newly-acquired job and personal skills as well as a deeply rooted passion and respect for all life.
The Project Pooch Community Outreach Office is located at 543 Third St., Suite C-3, in Lake Oswego; phone: 503-697-0623.