PITS FOR PATRIOTS: Buford, Roscoe and Achilles
Every Sunday morning for 6 weeks, a group of children at the Hepzibah House in Oak Park, IL, a home for abused children, meet with therapists. The therapists sit, shake hands, roll over and lick the faces of the children as part of their therapy session. The session is called Paws for Strength, sponsored by the Bryan and Amanda Bickell Foundation and the therapists are Pit Bulls.
Buford, Roscoe and Achilles have been those therapists. They are 3 rescued pit bulls. Cast aside by their former owners only to be saved by 3 people who knew they had more to offer. Their rescuers could tell the dogs were destined for something so much bigger and better than their past. Our October, 2018 partner, Pits for Patriots trains pit bulls to become therapy dogs and service dogs. Buford and Achilles are two dogs in their program.
During Paws for Strength, the kids meet with the volunteer dog and handler teams once a week, hoping over time to help them to socialize more and gain confidence with their dog interactions. Each of the dogs had a difficult past just as the children in the program. The handlers talk about how their dogs were able to overcome the past and work hard to provide a service as therapy dogs.
At the end of the 6 week session, the children have a special “graduation” day. Anne Aalbue, Roscoe’s owner, thought it would be fun to award the children a t-shirt with the therapy dogs on it to remind them of the work they did together. She came to PetYourShirt for the shirt design. Anne has said that some of the children squeal upon seeing their dogs on a shirt. And some vow never to take the shirt off!
All 3 dogs and their owners should be commended for realizing their dog had what it takes to become a therapy dog and for the dedication to work through the training to do so.
A little about each of these 3 dogs:
Buford was rescued by Pits for Patriots from DuPage County Animal Services. He was found as a tagged stray, however his owners never came for him. He spent over 5 months at the shelter and began to decline mentally. Once rescued by Pits for Patriots it was discovered that Buford had several old injuries from some sort of blunt force trauma. He has undergone 5 separate surgeries on his rear leg to try and keep him pain free. He was adopted in 2015 by a firefighter (now a Pits for Patriots Board Member). Through Pits for Patriots they continued their therapy dog training and are a registered team for the Paws For Strength Hephzibah kids. Several of the kids have compared their scars to Buford's, they wear them like badges of honor.
Anne owns and trains Roscoe, a pit mix rescued by a group in Mississippi. She first saw Roscoe on a rescue website. He had been given just a short time to find rescue before his euthanization date. She reached out to the rescue and based solely on his photo and story, agreed to adopt him. Anne found Roscoe easy going and easy to work with, “He would just look at me like what do you want me to do and I thought… here is my breed ambassador.”
Roscoe is now a Safe Humane Ambassador dog, a HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response dog, a Pet Partners certified therapy dog as well as a therapy dog for the Bryan and Amanda Bickell Foundation’s Paws for Strength program.
Achilles was rescued as a 12 week old pup by Kelly Yearwood, the founder of Pits for Patriots, and her husband, Greg. Achilles is deaf and his previous owners used aversive punishment to try and house train him. They traumatized him so badly he would drink his own urine to avoid punishment. He disliked having people and animals around him or his possessions. With consistency, patience and love Achilles learned not to fear people or other animals and he absolutely loves doing therapy work. Kelly says, “He knows when it is his day to go see the kids and begins yowling the minute we get up until we are out the door.”