• What is k9 connection?
• Why is k9 connection not capitalized?
• What is OPCC?
• How did k9 connection get started?
• What is k9 connection’s success rate?
• What happens with the students and dogs after they graduate from the initial program?
• Isn’t it sad for the students when they have to say good-bye to their dog at the end of the program?
• Does k9 connection have an internship program?
• What about volunteers?
• Are there other k9 connection programs? What if I want to start a program similar to k9’s?

What is k9 connection?
k9 connection, a 501(c)(3) project of OPCC, is an experience-based program, which educates and inspires area continuation high school students through bonding with and training homeless shelter dogs. We provide 7 to 10 intensive programs per year. Each individual program serves counselor referred teens at participating schools, and concludes with a graduation ceremony and the placement of each dog in a permanent home. Our work then continues with monthly follow-up “check-ins” and student mentoring for all k9 connection graduates.

Why is k9 connection not capitalized?
Simply to avoid any confusion or infringement on the K9 police units in our area.

What is OPCC?
OPCC (Ocean Park Community Center) is the largest and most comprehensive provider of housing and services on the Westside to low-income and homeless youth, adults and families, battered women and their children, and people living with mental illness. OPCC was founded in 1963 as a community resource center for low-income families in the Ocean Park neighborhood of Santa Monica. As the needs of the community have changed over the last 45 years, and homelessness, domestic violence, and mental illness have become prominent social issues, OPCC has evolved into a multi-faceted social service agency serving more than 8,000 people annually, empowering them to rebuild their lives and become self-sufficient. k9 connection is one of OPCC’s 11 projects. However, k9 connection is unique in that we are independently responsible for our own funding. k9’s budget is met through individual donations, small grants and sponsorships.

How did k9 connection get started?
Katherine Beattie and Pat Sinclair started k9 connection in 2005 having met as volunteers for a humane education program. The bond that develops so quickly between youth and shelter dogs inspired them. They researched the few programs they could find around the country, being most impressed with Project Pooch in Oregon. They developed a program unique to each group of students k9 serves. Lynn Medlin came on board as the third founder to develop the dog program. k9 continues to develop all aspects of the project.

What is k9 connection’s success rate?
The first quantitative study of the use of “Human Animal Interaction as an Intervention with Youth” was completed in 2013 using k9 connection programs as the study’s subject over the course of a year. The findings showed significant improvements in the teens’ empathy, self awareness, and emotional IQ, and a decrease in antisocial and self-serving perceptions. (Jessica Thomas, M.A., The Chicago School of Professional Psychology) A previous qualitative study of k9 connection done in 2008 was based on student focus groups and one-on-one interviews with host school counselors. The researcher concluded that the k9 connection program positively shapes youths’ behavior, self-esteem, skills of goal setting and impulse control, as well as their sense of accountability and community. (Danielle Horwich, M.S.W., Hebrew Union College)

What happens with the students and dogs after they graduate from the initial program?
The initial program is followed up by monthly alumni check-ins where students, dogs that have not been adopted, and volunteer staff come together for lunch to share successes and support each other’s challenges. When k9 returns to that school alumni are eligible to be Peer Leaders and work in the program. Once k9 alumni have graduated from high school they receive continued mentoring and are eligible to apply for a paid Intern position with k9 connection.Once a shelter dog is accepted into the k9 program, it is no longer at risk of being euthanized. The dogs stay in the k9 programs until they are adopted.

Isn’t it sad for the students when they have to say good-bye to their dog at the end of the program?
The answer is yes, but that it is bittersweet. Although they know they will miss their dog, one of the happiest moments for a student is when he or she can turn over the leash to a new owner — which sometimes happens at our graduations. The shelter dogs who find homes always convey the subliminal message to the kids that even if you’ve been abused, neglected or abandoned (as these dogs have), there’s still hope for you (the kids identify with this on a deep level). We often are able to stay in touch with families who adopt our dogs, and they send us photos of their family with their new canine member, which of course we share with the students.

Does k9 connection have an internship program?
We only have paid internship positions available to k9 alumni that have graduated from high school. The intern program allows a k9 graduate the opportunity to experience a supportive work environment as they transition into independence. The intership is one year and reviews are performed after every program.

What about volunteers?
With only two full-time paid staff, k9 relies heavily on our wonderful volunteers. Many volunteer staff work with us on a daily basis during the programs. These volunteers come to us in a variety of ways. People hear about us from their friends, who may also be volunteers, or they might find us on volunteermatch.com, or they might have read about us or seen us on TV. You can download a volunteer application from our website. You do not need previous experience although a good comfort level with dogs is essential for the program work.

Are there other k9 connection programs? What if I want to start a program similar to k9’s?
k9 connection only provides programs to continuation schools in the Los Angeles area. k9’s mission is to research and develop the youth/dog therapeutic modality in our project and then export our accumulated experience to anyone who is interested. We provide start-up consulting free of charge. Contact k9 connection for further information. info@k9connection.org

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