Our Clients Make a Difference – Kate Titus and Harley, Therapy Team for Gabriel’s Angels.
July is National Make a Difference to Children Month, which focuses on showing appreciation for our young people and helping them grow into responsible, sensitive, healthy adults. But some children have additional obstacles in their path to a bright future. According to Childhelp, a foundation that focuses on the prevention and treatment of child abuse, child abuse happens at every socioeconomic level, and in all ethnic, cultural, and religious groups.
In recognition of National Make a Difference to Children Month, Encanto Pet Clinic in Tucson, Arizona spotlights Gabriel’s Angels, a Tucson organization that provides pet therapy to kids in the cycle of violence. “You can redefine that as kids in crisis – we deal with children as young as toddlers, all the way up to age 18,” says Kate Titus, an Encanto Pet Clinic client and a board member of Gabriel’s Angels. Titus and her dog, Harley, work as one of approximately 150 registered Therapy Teams that visit facilities such as Casa de los Ninos and Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse. “We also go to places like Boys and Girls Clubs of America, where these kids may not have been pulled into the cycle of violence, may not have been a victim or an aggressor, but it is all around them.”
Gabriel’s Angels states that they serve 13,000 abused, neglected and at-risk children in Arizona through pet therapy. Titus explains that Therapy Teams consist of a dog, a handler (usually the owner of the dog) and occasionally a Helping Hand – a second adult who helps with a curriculum, reads or interacts with children while the Therapy Team is involved with the group. “ All of our activities are focused on encouraging growth in seven core behaviors; things like communication, respect, empathy, and other behaviors that are the building blocks of character in a child as they grow. If kids don’t get them as children, it’s much more difficult to implement them as an adult. For example, we may do an activity with the dog that is as simple as brushing the dog and brushing the dog’s teeth. So you think, well you are just petting the dog and brushing its teeth. What is the big deal? But they are learning how to be gentle with the dog, how to communicate with the dog, how to feel what they feel. You don’t want to hit the dog with the brush, you want to brush with the fur, etc. You are helping them to understand how the dog is feeling, and be able to translate that into how other humans feel when they interact with them. [We may even introduce an idea] as simple as the need for good hygiene. For some of these kids, toothpaste and soap is a luxury. We will talk about things like how to keep the dog safe, about collars and tags, where to look for them, etc. the fact that we are talking at all is a big deal, because it shows empathy and caring and concern.”
Titus’s journey with Gabriel’s Angels began after she adopted Harley, a hound mix that was destined for euthanasia at the pound. “He was a two-time loser,” says Titus. “He had been returned twice.” One of Titus’s colleagues had been walking the dogs at the pound, and kept telling Titus about the dog that “whoo-hooed” instead of barking. “She said, you have got to see this dog,” says Titus. “That was my first mistake – or my best bit of luck!”
Titus went to see Harley, and she immediately fell in love with him. She asked the staff at the pound to give her until the end of the week to take him. “ My house was not ready for a dog this size, and I had a 12-year-old cat. I said, he is not to be euthanized, but if someone else wants him – he can go to them. That was Monday, and Wednesday I still hadn’t gone to [the pet store] to get all my stuff. I got a call in the middle of the afternoon, and they said Harley had been in a scuffle. I had an hour to come and get him or they will euthanize him. I was on the opposite side of town -I broke a few speed records getting there. I sprung him. And I came home to the situation that I didn’t want to have on Monday. I had a 12-year-old cat, no dog doors, no crate, and no food. All I had was a half-inch kennel leash.”
Despite the initial chaos, Titus and Harley became fast friends. One day, Titus was in the lobby of Encanto Pet Clinic when she picked up a local pet newspaper to read. She saw an ad for Gabriel’s Angels. “I wanted to do more with Harley – being able to spend time with him had a really strong pull for me.” Titus made a phone call and soon she and Harley had made it through the Delta Society (now Pet Partners) testing, and they were registered as a Therapy Team.
Titus and Harley work with young men in Juvenile Detention. “Teenaged boys would not have been my first choice,” laughs Titus, “but it was what was open. But I will tell you that it has worked out really well. Harley has just blossomed working with these kids. He has really connected well to these teenagers. I tell them Harley’s story and of second chances. He was in solitary confinement while they were waiting on me, because they didn’t want him around other dogs. Some of these kids have to go through that. We talk about how being locked up sometimes has its purpose. You have to figure out that it is not where you want to spend the rest of your life. So you better straighten it up.”
How can Encanto Pet Clinic readers help?
1. Time – even if you don’t have a dog that is appropriate to be a part of a Therapy Team, you can become a Helping Hand. Gabriel’s Angels currently has a need for volunteers to go along with a team and work with the children. Helping Hands volunteers are trained and qualified in the same way as Therapy Teams.
2. Talent – If your dog is a candidate for a Therapy Team, contact Gabriel’s Angels or Kate Titus at email@example.com. You and your dog will receive training. Kate encourages you to contact her directly and she will help you start the process.
3. Treasure – Gabriel’s Angels is a professionally run and managed organization, which means overhead and staff expenses. Donations help support this valuable Arizona program. You can find out more about Gabriel’s Angels here.
Encanto Pet Clinic is a Veterinary Clinic in Tucson, Arizona. We are proud to share this inspiring story with you and hope that you’ll share it with others by clicking any of the share buttons below!