Original story found on http://www.newschannel9.com/
A program mixing rescue dogs and children in juvenile detention centers is giving a whole new meaning to the phrase - 'dogs are a man's best friend.' Rescue 2 Restore started in June and has already made a profound impact on a once 3-time state champ with USA wrestling, who he says got caught up in the wrong crowd.
To an outsider it looks like 16-year-old Dakota Harris and this 3-year-old mixed breed, Panda, have been best friends all their lives, but that's not the case. They met in October, when Dakota was sent to the Regional Youth Detention Center in Dalton.
"I started off down the wrong road - I got involved in drugs and I went downhill - smoking meth and ended up here. When I came in here I didn't - I really didn't like nobody - I hated dogs with a passion I could not stand dogs," said Dakota Harris.
Assistant director Doug Hartline said when Dakota arrived he was stubborn and had a difficult time interacting. Then Dakota started working with Panda.
Panda and Bella are part of the Rescue 2 Restore program with the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice. Rescue dogs live at the centers and the kids become youth trainers.
"When we came in here they of course did not really have enough exercise and they were kind of wild and jumping on everybody and digging holes and that kind of thing and now they are so disciplined," said Rita Burrows, the volunteer kennel manager at the Humane Society of Northwest Georgia.
Program directors like Chrissy Kaczynski say at the end of 12 weeks, the dogs are trained and the teens are learning how to better handle their emotions and behaviors.
"It's really amazing to see the youth both emotionally how they relax and are so comfortable around the dogs and then watching how they learn and grow - you see the dogs and the kids learn and grow together," said Chrissy Kaczynski, the Animal Programs Coordinator of Rescue 2 Restore.
Dakota says his biggest takeaway is learning how to be patient.
"If you're motivating them to go where they need to go they will listen so they motivate me to do what I need to do to get this far. If you thought like no one cared about you or any of that you would know at least dogs care about you, at least you'd have that - that's what I noticed," said Harris.
"It's almost a 180 sometimes we may have to struggle with him but for the most part this program has helped him tremendously with interacting with staff and other kids his whole temperament," said Doug Hartline, the assistant director at the Regional Youth Detention Center in Dalton.
As for the teen who says he hated dogs just two months ago...
"Most definitely, most definitely I will own me a dog," said Harris.
This program is currently in 2 facilities in Georgia. Program directors want to expand Rescue 2 Restore across the state, especially to be in long term facilities. Since the 12 week program is over - both Panda and Bella are available for adoption through the Northwest Georgia Humane Society.
3408 Covington Highway
Decatur, Georgia 30032