Benefit helping group help dogs, kids

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Participants in the Pawsitive Works program train their dogs through a system that rewards good behavior

SANDPOINT — Man and beast alike stand to benefit from Pawsitive Works’ first benefit dinner tonight. 

The non-profit has organized their fundraising dinner at 41 South Restaurant starting 6 p.m. Between the meal, a silent auction, a gift bag and entertainment by comedic pianist David Scheel, a performer who earns frequent comparisons to Victor Borge, the evening promises to be memorable. Tickets cost $50, and seating is limited to 60.

A nonprofit organization based in Bonners Ferry, Pawsitive Works helps troubled youth by matching them up with behaviorally-challenged dogs. As the program participants train the dogs, they learn to identify and modify their own self-destructive behaviors.

“Seeing that transformation is the passion that drives us,” Pawsitive Works executive director Karen Schumacher said. “Seeing these kids transform from sullen and angry to smiling is an experience that never gets old.”

Pawsitive Works is currently preparing for its fall sessions in Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene this October. The program brings in four or five youth from juvenile probation, schools and similar agencies. Throughout a period of 15 classes — usually divided up at three a week — they teach participants about dog training and assign reading and writing assignments to encourage self-examination. Between entry and exit testing, daily rubrics and post-class tracking, the Pawsitive Works staff expects to find reduced crime rates and improved behavior from its kids.

“Watching the dogs with these youth is phenomenal,” Schumacher said. “It places everyone in a non-judgmental environment. The dogs don’t care what these kids wear or where they’ve been.”

As for the dogs, they’re selected from shelters after careful temperament and reactivity testing to ensure safety and sociability. The kids then help eliminate the canines’ undesirable habits and encourage agreeable traits through positive reinforcement training methods. Pawsitive Works helps the shelters find homes for the dogs by providing marketing materials.

The program got its start through Schumacher’s background as a dog trainer. After researching the healing aspects of dogs, she started putting together a plan that would place troubled kids and dogs in a mutually beneficial relationship. Two and a half years ago, she officially launched the program in Bonners Ferry. Since then, Pawsitive Works has expended to include classes in Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene, and more communities are interested.

Like most non-profits, however, Pawsitive Works is limited by its available resources. They need qualified individuals for financial planning, legal advice and their advisory board. And they always require volunteers to help oversee classes.    

Of course, the almighty dollar is always required, too. And that’s where the fundraiser comes into play. Schumacher hopes that the money earned from the evening will allow her to bring the program to new communities.

“We’re thrilled with the response to the fundraiser so far,” Schumacher said. “The community is really responding to our needs and supporting us.”

To purchase tickets for the event, make donations and learn more about the organization, go to www.pawsitiveworks.com.

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