Volunteer dogs help kids, the elderly and at-risk youth

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Recently, the local nonprofit Paws & Think was granted a $10,000 award from Honda America to help them continue to do the work they do with dogs helping the community.

Their volunteer pets go to better the lives of the sick, the elderly and at-risk youth in your community.

At the Carmel Clay Public Library, Barkley, a large poodle mix is sitting quietly in a reading room with two little girls who are sharing a book with him.  It might be an unusual sight at most libraries, but Kelsey Burton with Paws & Think said it is part of the Paws to Read program.

“We just take kids and get them to try and get them really excited about reading,” said Burton.

“So really what it is, is that we’re just taking dogs and taking the joy and the happiness that they bring to those people in need,” said Burton.

In this case, Barkley got to enjoy a good book with these little ones, helping them get excited about reading but there are other cases where Paw to Read really helps.

“It really helps especially with kids struggling to read, kids that may have delays or disabilities because the dog is non-judgmental,” said Burton.  “The dog is not going to make fun of them”

Since 2001, Paws & Think has sent volunteers with their dogs to hospitals, nursing homes and schools.  Now they even take pups to the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center.

“We pair up youth there with the dogs from Animal Care and Control,” described Burton.  “They spend a full week there training the dogs and the dogs stay there and when we’re done the kids have learned basic life skills.  The dogs are more adoptable because they’ve learned basic obedience.”

Since starting, Paws & Think says they’ve touched 9,000 lives with their furry friends; 140 dogs now have homes because of the youth canine program.

While there are only two part-time employees, the group has 150 volunteers. If you think you have a dog that could help you can contact the nonprofit.  They also need volunteers who don’t already have a pup.

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