Healing childhood pain with dogs

By Valencia

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Every week for the past few months, fourth graders at Chicora Elementary have had a furry friend named Sadie help them tackle life problems.

"This program is an opportunity to teach kids life skills in responsibility and personal safety and bullying prevention and how to handle everyday annoyances," said Adele Little, director of Healing Species.

Each week, kids learn about citizenship and compassion for others through caring for a dog.

"All of them are rescues so they've all got a story," said Little. "Somebody didn't want them. Yet, at a point in time, somebody spoke up for them and has given them help and care and love. And now, look at how they've responded. They come into the classroom giving love."

Since the program began, Principal Brian Agnew said the school administration has had fewer disciplinarian referrals from the fourth grade.

"I've had students come up and ask if they can write letters to the patients at MUSC to show compassion for them. I know some of them have offered to write letters to the soldiers in Afghanistan and other places," said Agnew.{}

"We've had other kids where behavior has changed," said Little. "We've had kids who have come forward and said, 'I have been hurt and I need to tell somebody.'"

For now the program is only offered to fourth graders at Chicora Elementary and Harleyville-Ridgeville{} Elementary.

Agnew said all schools would benefit from a class like Healing Species.

"One parent called and said that their child wanted to get a dog because of this program. They are happy because they are getting better along with their sisters and brothers and other folks in the household with them," Agnew said.

Next semester, the program will be offered at James Simmons and St. Stephen elementary schools.