One of my favorite quotes is "teach children to be kind to animals and they will grow up to be kind to people too." From an early age, I knew two things, I loved animals and I was going to be some kind of teacher. I was lucky enough to be able to do both. I started out as a school counselor and theatre director in my native Minnesota, where I adopted my first dog, Shiloh. After moving to Virginia, I began volunteering at a local rescue group until I decided to launch my own non-profit organization, The Shiloh Project, named after you know who!
The Shiloh Project paired shelter foster dogs with juvenile offenders. The students worked on training and socializing 'their' dogs and preparing them for adoption. After The Shiloh Project, I started a summer camp, Camp Underdog, where kids of all backgrounds got to learn about the plight of homeless dogs and interact with number of them from various local rescue groups. Along with Camp Underdog, I ran an after-school group called Club Y.A.A.P. (Young Animal Advocates Program) where students learned about a wide variety of animals, wild and domestic.
Needless to say, kids and animals, are my thing!
Teaching Compassion, Respect & Responsiblity toward animals and others
I conceived The Shiloh Project because of my deep concern about incidents of youth committing cruel, violent and abusive crimes against animals, and about the correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence or other violence toward humans. Animal abusers are five times more likely to commit crimes against people, four times more likely to commit property crimes and three times more likely to have a record for drug or disorderly conduct offenses.
Young people raised in violent, abusive homes learn that violence is a way to solve problems and get results. One of the most powerful moments during many Shiloh Project sessions occurred when participants discovered that they can teach a dog the “sit” command without laying a hand on the animal. As one student noted in their Shiloh Project journal: “I learned that you don’t have to treat dogs bad for them to listen to you.”
Without the intervention of the the Shiloh Project, many of these troubled youths would never have had the opportunity to experience a non-violent and healthy relationship with an animal, which is often a first step in learning how to relate emotionally and respectfully to another living thing.