by Jon D' Auna
AT FOUR YEARS OF age, Tatiana's life had been one filled with violence,
abuse and neglect. Needless to say, it wasn't surprising that when she
found herself transplanted to a crisis nursery she had absolutely no desire
to interact or open up to any of the caring staff or other children that now
surrounded her. She spent her days quietly reserved, scared, scorn and
detached from the possibility that any good could exist in her life. That
was, until a loving and nurturing Weimaraner named Gabriel approached
her one day and nuzzled his way into her arms.
"She took his leash and introduced him to every kid in there. She lit
up and transformed in a way that she hadn't before," says Gabriel's Angels
CEOand founder Pam Gaber. ·When I left she looked at Gabriel and
asked when he was coming bac and I told her that he'd be back in one
dog week. So I came back as planned and she lit up and ran towards him
screaming 'Gabriel came back!' The staff turned to me and said, 'You don't
get it do you? The minute you lef last week, she told us that Gabriel was
never coming back.' At four years of age she had already learned how to
shield herself from disappoin ent. The staff there told me that that was
the first healthy attachment Tatiana ever had."
What began with one faithful gray dog in 2000 has now turned into
a substantial healing force for abused, neglected and at-risk children in
Arizona. Now 175 pet-therapy dogs strong, Gabriel's Angels serves over
13,000 children across Arizona including 30 agencies locally: Casa De Los
Nines, Emerge Shelters, Gospel Rescue Mission, Springboard, Boys and
Girls Clubs, amongst others. Utilizing these loving canines to re-teach children
how to love and be loved, the trainers use activities such as brushing
the dog's teeth to instill seven core behaviors - empathy, love, trust, understanding,
self-esteem, respect and tolerance.
"Many of the children who come to our crisis nursery are experiencing
incredibly toxic stress and drama-filled lives and often times the first being
they will open up to and trust and show their love to are these animals,"
says Casa De Los Ninos CEOSusie Huhn. "We can see the transformation
immediately for some of these kids who won't open up with humans at the shelter
because not only do the animals give the kids love, but also it enables the kids to show
Each of the therapy dogs have gone through extensive training and
are certified through national organizations before they can become a part
of a therapy team. Any dog and owner can apply to join the organization,
which hopes to steadily increase their numbers to reach more children.
The children visited at the shelters are typically broken up into groups
of six to eight children, although Gabriel's Angels also offers individual
therapy sessions for special cases.
"What you have to keep in mind is that we're working in cycles of
violence. Most of these children are at risk and come from really tough
circumstances and most of them have suffered some form of violence,"
says Gabriel's Angels Director of Development MeMe Aguila. "If you don't
show a child different things than they have learned they won't understand
them and that cycle of violence perpetuates. Wrong habits are developed
from core behaviors that they are exposed to at a young age because of
their situation. Our goal is to provide a child with those core behaviors so
they can go on to become a successful adult."
The organization all started by accident after Pam Gaber quit her highpowered
corporate career and decided to do something for her community
that would serve those in need. After volunteering at a shelter for children,
Gaber asked if her puppy Gabriel could attend the children's Christmas
party and her breakthrough experience that day made her new life path
obvious. And while Gabriel passed away in 2010, he alone was able to
reach 10,000 children and his legacy lives on through the many dogs that
are now following his lead.
"This agency started by accident, but it continues with unbridled purpose,"
says Gaber. "These dogs are teachers. To learn to bring a dog water
is no big deal, but" for these kids it is. For them to realize another being
is in need and have the desire to provide for them is huge. The dogs and
children learn to trust each other and that plants a seed that allows them
to grow. There's a special bond between children and animals and that
opens the window to allow a therapist to get through to that child. It truly
is magical." _
To learn more information about Gabriel's Angels, and how to get
involved, visit the organization's website at www.GabrielsAngels.org
Marcy Scott: Tucker The Golden Retriever Is Big News for OurFamilyFunNight.com
Tucker the Golden Retiever helps OurFamilyFunNight.com further their goals in the midst of recent troubling times. At the same time, the site hopes that their coverage of Gabriel's Angels will help Tucker and dogs like him do more good work for society.
(PRWEB) June 07, 2013
The website OurFamilyFunNight.com says that the recent story of Tucker the Golden Retriever is crucial to their goal of helping American families stay positive in rough times. "We want to highlight people doing positive things," said site editor Marcy Scott, "Tucker might be a dog, but when I came across his story I knew it was perfect for OurFamilyFunNight."
Editors of OurFamiliyFunNight say that inspirational stories like Tucker's help them further their mission of encouraging readers to get involved in their local communities. Scott said, "We believe it is vital for people to step up and work hard to make their communities better, especially in the troubled times we live in now, OurFamilyFunNight is always delighted when we discover good news like Tucker, and we want to share that news with our readers."
According to the family website, OurFamilyFunNight.com, every Wednesday Tucker visits the Crisis Nursery pre-school to interact with children who have been neglected, abused or who are underprivileged. What makes him special is that he is a Golden Retriever that is a registered pet therapy dog.
His job is to help children learn emotional and social skills by interacting with them. According to all reports, he is an expert at it and he loves his job. The article from the Family Fun Night website praised Tucker and Leslie for their fantastic work with underprivileged children. They stated that it is unfortunate that there are not more programs of this type available all over the country to help children regain emotional ties and basic social skills.
The OurFamilyFunNight article picked up on Scott Craven's recent story from The Arizona Republic that reported when Tucker enters the Crisis Nursery pre-school, as he has done for the past three years, excited children run to over to pet him and give him hugs. He wags his tail and calmly takes all of the attention in stride. The Crisis Nursery staff report that even children who are withdrawn around adults open up and show love and caring towards the therapy dogs that visit them.
The Golden and his owner, Leslie Hosford, belong to a program named Gabriel's Angels. That program offers pet therapy sessions to at-risk, underprivileged children in Phoenix. It is designed to teach children core values such as confidence and respect. It is the only program of that type in the state of Arizona. Recently, an article written by Scott Craven was published in The Arizona Republic. That article reported that Gabriel's Angels is one of the social services programs that have been supported by the 12 News and The Arizona Republic's Season for Sharing Campaign.
Marcy Conard, of OurFamilyFunNight.com, praised the work of Gabriel's Angels. She said, "The work they do has a tremendous impact. I hope that by featuring Tucker on the site, I Gabriel's Angels will receive more recognition and hopefully be able to expand their reach and change more lives."
OurFamilyFunNight.com is a family themed blog forum that is packed full of news, reviews, ideas, recipes, trivia and fun for the whole family.
Dogs help kids heal
Therapeutic Pooches Visit Valley Children in Crisis
by Scott Craven - Nov. 27, 2012 11:32 PM
The Republic | azcentral.com
Something magical had just happened, and Pam Gaber adjusted the rearview mirror to talk to the one behind it all.
"Gabriel," she said to the gray, panting pooch in the backseat, "What did you do?"
For more than a year, Gaber had been working diligently to gain the trust of children who should have been far too young to know that adults can lie.
Yet her 1-year-old Weimaraner had needed only minutes to break through the walls that abuse and neglect had erected. The smiles and laughter still rang in Gaber's ears when she had the thought: "I could do something, or I could do nothing."
She decided to do something, and over the last 12-plus years, Gabriel's Angels has visited more than 13,000 abused, neglected and at-risk kids who have learned a little something about love and caring from dogs just as magical as the gray pooch that started it all.
* * *
Tiny hands reached out as the golden retriever stepped into the room, and over the next 10 minutes, Tucker was pushed, pulled, tugged and towed by the excited children in pre-kindergarten at Crisis Nursery in central Phoenix.
Tucker's tail did not stop wagging until Leslie Hosford, his owner and therapy teammate, gently pushed his rump into a sit. And still, tiny hands were all over him, including one that gave his tail a yank.
Tucker gave no indication that he even noticed.
For more than 3 years, Tucker and Hosford have been here every Wednesday, without fail, one of Gabriel's Angels' 160 person-animal teams reaching out to abused, neglected and at-risk children. The program is one of many social- service organizations that have been supported by The Arizona Republic and 12 News' Season for Sharing campaign in past years.
Gabriel's Angels' purpose is to teach children such core values as confidence, tolerance and respect.
But at this moment, all the kids care about is a big fluffy dog, and they just want to hold on.
These are children who have been neglected, or have shared beds crowded with siblings, or who have had no bed at all, waking each day in a car.
All of that goes away when Tucker comes in. The older kids -- the 4- and 5-year-olds fearless in the face of a large swishing tail -- descend upon Tucker with hands poised to pet. The younger children -- 18 months to 3 years -- may be a bit more hesitant, approaching a side of the dog, where there are no teeth.
Sooner or later, they all fall under Tucker's spell.
On a recent visit, it happened the second Hosford asked, "Who wants to hug Tucker?" A chorus of "me, me, me" filled the room, and soon only the golden's muzzle was visible, the rest of him lost under an avalanche of small bodies.
It was a familiar sight for Cindy English, the education manager for Crisis Nursery. Even children who have withdrawn behind walls of their own making -- perhaps necessary to survive -- will start to emerge in the safety of a friendly, lovable animal.
"These kids have been hurt or lied to by adults," English said. "But around an animal, they show love and caring. For some it might be the very first meaningful connection they make."
While Tucker attracts plenty of noisy attention from preschoolers, the real breakthroughs happen quietly.
Jose, a mentally challenged toddler, gripped a brush and, with the help of a teacher, moved smoothly along the dog's soft fur. An appreciative Tucker suddenly swiveled his head and licked Jose's cheek, and the boy's broad smile spread quickly among kids and educators alike.
When that moment passed -- its true magic understood by only a few in the room -- teacher Isabel Cubero said, "Oh, I want to cry right now."
For the past few weeks, Jose had been reluctant to come near Tucker. Cubero was shocked, and touched, to see what happened when the golden gave Jose that appreciative lick.
"It was so beautiful to see," Cubero said.
The fleeting seconds of that interaction are among the many reasons Hosford makes the lengthy drive from north Scottsdale each week with her canine companion.
"I am incredibly lucky to do this," she said. "And Tucker loves it. When we get home, he goes to his crate and sleeps until I wake him for dinner."
* * *
Gabriel's Angels' roots go back to Jan. 1, 1999, and a gray blob in the corner.
Pam Gaber and her husband, Mike, decided it might be time for a puppy, though "might" never played into it.
"When you go looking for a puppy, you come home with a puppy," Gaber said. "It always happens that way."
Their first and only stop was at a Gilbert breeder to look at a litter of Weimaraners. As several pups nipped at her ankles, Gaber was drawn to the one huddled in the corner. Within minutes he had a home and a name -- Gabriel.
Fast forward a year. Gaber, who had been volunteering at Crisis Nursery every Friday for 18 months, often shared tales of her mischievous pooch Gabriel, and the kids hung on every word. Soon, she was bringing photos of her pet.
"It really resonated with them," Gaber said. "They were bonding with an animal they'd never met."
As the annual holiday party approached, Gaber had an idea -- a waggish, playful, frisky idea. What if she dressed Gabriel as a reindeer and brought him along?
Doing just that, she was astonished by the results. The kids brushed, petted and hugged Gabriel. One child rubbed Gabriel's velvety ear against his cheek. There were smiles. There were laughs.
Gaber also was astounded by what she did not see. Tantrums. Tears. Angry outbursts.
Once she decided to do something, Gaber scoured the Internet looking for groups that used dogs to reach out to troubled kids. She found therapy dogs who visited hospitals and homeless shelters and care homes, but nothing dedicated to at-risk youths.
She went to work creating her own non-profit, starring (and named after) Gabriel, begun in May 2000. Canines had to be certified as therapy dogs, costs incurred by the owner. Once registered, each dog also had to pass Gaber's muster, as did each human companion.
When a neighbor heard about it, Gabriel's Angels had its second therapy dog -- Sugarbear, a golden retriever. A few months later, they were joined by Auska, a shaggy bouvier des Flandres. But Angels took flight when it was featured by a local TV news station.
By 2002, Gabriel's Angels had 25 teams in the field; a year later, that number had doubled.
Today it has more therapy teams than it can handle, as well as a waiting list of agencies requesting weekly visits. The agency's budget, however, has put a leash on growth.
The group's volunteer coordinators are nearly overwhelmed as they schedule and monitor the 160 teams. With a larger budget, Gaber said, she could hire more staff members and expand the services.
Gabriel's Angels took in $540,755 in grants and donations in 2010, according to its federal tax filing, and spent $688,320, for a loss of $135,040.
While Gaber remains in charge of the agency, she retired from the field not long after Gabriel passed away in May 2010.
Four months earlier, after a visit that exhausted the big gray dog (who was in the midst of cancer treatments), Gaber once again tilted the rearview mirror so she could talk to her best friend in the backseat.
"Gabriel," she said. "I am so sorry. I should have known better. I won't put you through that again."
The dog's legacy lives on, and Gaber said Angels will outlast her as well.
"The gift goes beyond Gabriel and I," she said.
What: Pet therapy teams visit abused, neglected and at-risk kids 17 years old and younger.
Needs: In addition to monetary donations, Helping Hand volunteers are needed to assist therapy teams during visits. Volunteers must commit to biweekly visits for at least six months.
Pet therapy teams: Dogs must be registered as therapy dogs through Pet Partners (deltasociety.org) or Therapy Dogs Inc. (therapydogs.com). Volunteers must undergo background checks.
Details: gabrielsangels.org, 602-266-0875.
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