Children’s Village Canine Training Center
The Laura J. Niles Foundation was made aware of a project which offered the potential to assist troubled children, the physically disabled and animals. The project, organized by the non-profit group Children’s Village, entailed among other things the construction of a canine training center. The Children’s Village’s goal was to erect a permanent facility to house an assistance dog training program. Unique to the program was that children with disciplinary problems (in residence at the Children’s Village) would be responsible for the care and training of each of the dogs being trained to provide assistance to the disabled.
Prior to the start of the assistance dog training project, the Children’s Village primary mission was to operate a residential treatment center for seriously emotionally troubled boys aged 5 to 20. These boys were all in residence on a 150-acre campus located in Dobbs Ferry, New York. In 1997, the staff at Children’s Village and Greenburgh Eleven – the public school on its campus – discovered a similar group, the Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD), whose mission is to teach at-risk youths to train assistance dogs. It was at this time that these two groups joined forces.
Since the start of this new joint endeavor, the dog training program operated out of a dilapidated trailer held together with aggressive maintenance and a lot of hope. Today, however, due in large part to a grant from the Laura J. Niles Foundation, the Assistance Dog Training Program now has a beautiful new home that not only houses the training facilities, but also provides safe and comfortable housing for the physically-disabled people who come to Children’s Village for their two-week training sessions prior to living independently with their canine companion. The Center is also used as a lodging facility for individuals who are invited to learn how to become trainers at Children’s Village, as well as other ECAD training sites.
Through the development of a unique caring relationship between the boys on campus and the dogs selected for the program, each troubled youth comes to better understand the rewards of responsibility, as well as the immeasurable benefits of unconditional love. Most impressive is that the children are afforded an opportunity to help others who are physically less fortunate than themselves. The treasured outcome is that this new program has changed the lives of some of the most troubled boys in the New York City area – teenagers who previously had been unable to connect through more traditional programs.
At Children’s Village, the primary purpose of the program has always been to help troubled boys. However, through the addition of the Niles Foundation-funded Dog Assistance Training Program, the organization is able to do so much more. The dogs that these children care for provide true independence to physically challenged men women and children. There are over eighty different assistance tasks that a fully-trained dog can perform, including opening doors, retrieving items, bracing individuals so that they can stand up on their own, and alerting an owner to an upcoming seizure.