Animal intervention program helps children cope - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Animal intervention program helps children cope

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

For the first time in Mississippi, a group has participated in a combined youth intervention animal assistance program.

The program "Peace Zone," is designed to help young people work through negative behaviors.

Man's best friend is adding a positive spin to help some local children get on the right track.

Ming and Bumble are a sight to see.

Ming weighs about 20 pounds, and Bumble weighs a bit more at just under 200 pounds.

The two companions work together to help children cope with feelings like anger and anxiety.

"The dogs are used initially to make a bridge between myself and the children and to facilitate trust," said Natalie Allouche.

Allouche is the founder of "Brothers in Arms Animal Assistance Intervention."

Over the past 7 weeks, Allouche has worked with children at "Operation Shoestring."

She uses dogs and a Harvard based curriculum to help children practice self-control, express themselves positively and gain trust.

"That tends to happen pretty quickly because the dogs have no alternative motives, and they're accepted by the children and they're a comfort to them," Allouche said.

Several children were honored Monday for completing the intervention program.

First grader Elizabeth Martin says working with the dogs makes her feel excited and happy.

Allouche began her intervention program about 4 years ago.

Pets became a huge comfort to she and her family after two of her sons died of cancer 7 years apart.

Despite their illnesses, Allouche says her sons showed incredible determination.

She wants the kids she's working with to know they've got that same strength and determination.

"I wanted to take that part of them of their personalities and their legacy really and try and show that to other children who might be dealing with difficult situations," Allouche said.

Overall, Allouche says the children in the program now have more self-esteem and they are learning how to transfer the feelings they've got for the animals to their peers.

Grant money enabled "Operation Shoestring" the ability to offer the animal intervention program.

Officials from "Operation Shoestring" say they do plan to offer the program to their students this fall.

For more information, you can contact Allouche directly at bia@bellsouth.net.

You can also go to the website, www.bia-aat.org.

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