Canine Assisted Learning Mentoring Program

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Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast implements Canine Assisted Learning Mentoring Program in partnership with Pawsitive Works ® and the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).“Shaping both ends of the leash.”

(Fort Walton Beach, FL.), September 24, 2018– In 2018, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast were awarded Office of Justice Program (OJP) funding in support of mentoring programs for at risk teens. Nearly a year in the works, the organization, in partnership with Pawsitive Works ® and the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in Fort Walton Beach, Florida are prepared to implement S.E.E. Spot, a large group, followed by a small group canine assisted learning program, both focused on the social emotional development of mentees.

“The beauty of the canine assisted learning programs is the mutually beneficial end-result. Our members benefit from a unique experience designed to increase their emotional intelligence through a relationship they build with an animal that can-not speak for itself and the responsibility of training that animal to gain skills that will make it more attractive to an adopter and permanent new home.”

The programs require a considerable amount of planning from after school training schedules, transportation of animals and or participating youth, volunteer schedules and even securing dog training treat donations. Karen Schumacher, founder of Pawsitive Works and a Pensacola native was instrumental in making this project possible. Pawsitive Works does not just hand over curriculum; they provide training, serve as a liaison between the service provider and the local shelter, solicit donations from local businesses to support the program and offer ongoing assistance as the program proceeds. In fact, Schumacher garnered a partnership with Helve Silah, KLN Brands & Tuffy Pet Foods Regional Sales Manager in Perham, Minnesota that lead to a significant donation from Petland, Fort Walton Beach. The local store donated four cases of dog treats to assist the young trainers in their training efforts, with a pledge for more support in the future.

“Today, community partnerships such as this mean more than ever. The pre-emptive work we are doing in our Clubs is critical this day in age. We must be intentional about preparing our young people to grow with a positive self-concept, how to deal with their emotions and recognize those same emotions in others with empathetic eyes. It gives us hope to live in a community where all hands are on deck to ensure a future where young people feel they are useful and belong” said ShervinRassa, Chief Executive Officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast.

The canine assisted learning program will be piloted at the Fort Walton Beach Teen Club. The Club is on track to begin program implementation on Tuesday October 8th. Staff, volunteers’ members and canines then embark on the first round of a 5-week program with several goals, including but limited to, demonstrate positive changes in the social emotional development of participating youth and canine lives saved.

In one of PAWS many efforts to assist in the development of long term community-oriented solutions, the shelter pledged that any dog(s) matched for the Boys & Girls Club canine assisted learning program will be committed to the completion of the program, unless in the case of an adoption. Animals that complete the program will receive a Certificate of Completion, showing potential adopters they were trained in basic commands by a member of the Boys & Girls Club.

“PAWS is very excited about this program partnering with both the Boys and Girls Club of the Emerald Coast and Pawsitive Works! This program not only assists our amazing adoptable dogs into transitioning into being a valued family member but helps the youth learn empathy from our four-legged ambassadors. This program is a key factor in our growth towards our lofty One by One Initiative to become a no-kill by the year 2020. Programs that boost adoptions, involve the youth of our community and focus on solid partnerships will be the focal point of our shift into a new era at PAWS.” said Manda Moore, Community Development Coordinator for PAWS.

If you or someone you know with expertise in dog training, an interest in volunteering and a heart for positive youth development, please contact Dawn Novy, Administrator of Club Services and Program Advancement at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast.

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About Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast Mission: To enable all young people, especially those that need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens. Vision: Improving lives of all Emerald Coast youth as the premier youth development organization. The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast serves school aged children by providing intent based, outcome driven programs and Club experience. Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast provides services in eight Clubs across Escambia, Okaloosa Walton counties. For more information call 850-862-1616 and visit us online at

About Pawsitive Works ® Pawsitive Works is a nonprofit organization is helping community youth by providing a curriculum driven canine intervention program, training and support to youth serving organizations like The Boys & Girls Club of The Emerald Coast. The program guides teens through a curriculum of reading, writing activities and animal training exercises. It is designed to increase life skills for both the youth and dogs. As the Pawsitive Works motto says, the program is for “Shaping Both Ends of The Leash.” For more information about how Pawsitive Works canine assisted learning programs can deepen the impact of your social emotional development mentoring programs or other initiatives, please visit us at

About Panhandle Animal Welfare Society The Humane Society was first incorporated on March 26th, 1957 as the Playground Humane Society PAWS. We have played a key role in the field of animal care and control in Northwest Florida for over sixty years. Our first facility was a small building in Valparaiso, Florida. In 1986, the shelter was renamed the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society, affectionately known as PAWS today, we serve over 160,000 residents in Okaloosa County and surrounding communities. PAWS is a non-profit organization that presently handles more than 8,600 animals annually. The vet clinic is now in its 23rd year and has been an enormous success. Since the opening in January 1995, the clinic has sterilized over 70,000 animals. PAWS mission statement is to improve animal welfare through programs which educate the public, protect the animals, and provide refuge and medical care to animals in need.

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