What is not to love about those four-legged, tail-wagging furry friends who tend to fill us with positivity? There are some awesome local pups that are servicing our community in a greater way than you can imagine. There are times in which the world seems as though it is a merciless place. Perhaps we hear gloomy stories being pumped into our ears by the media or we may be affected directly by troublesome tragedies. It is in these moments that we must not forget that each of us has the power to redevelop empathy and trust. In Saint Petersburg, Florida, Kim Skrovanek has began a program that is more than pet therapy, Canines Helping Kids In Crisis teaches children compassion and kindness through Humane Education Connection.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Skrovanek and one of her two therapy dogs, Bronx, on a cool misty afternoon at The Sallie House, a safe haven for children through the Salvation Army. As the kids were returning “home” from school, you could hear the joy in their voices as they saw Kim and Bronx preparing for a visit with them. However, I quickly learned that there is a lesson taught in each visit and it is more than petting a cute little mutt.
You see, these children have been struck with abuse or neglect with parents who are not currently fit to care for their youngsters. That being said, Canines Helping Kids In Crisis assist them in overcoming their challenges of disconnect and teach them how to forgive in hopes that these children believe in themselves and are able to go onto accomplish great things in their lives (because WE believe in them!).
It is a fact that abuse is cyclical. A child who is abused is more likely to abuse other people (and animals) in the future. Through the program, these children learn more than simply being kind to others, they are also educated on the therapy dog’s story and where they came from. Every furry friend in program is a rescue pup, which is a key component of the children connecting with the animal and understanding that their story may be similar. That alone gives the kids hope and courage that can also discover a happy ending.
Skrovanek shared one particular incident on how the dogs can empower the children in different ways. There was a little girl about four-years-old at The Sallie House in the arms of a staff member as Kim and her other pup, Olivie, entered the home. Immediately the youngster said, “Doggy, doggy, doggy!” Sure, the story initially sounds cute, but this was the first thing that this child said while she had lived there for over a year. (The staff wasn’t even sure if she knew how to speak until this moment). She quickly began relating to the children a bit more because she was able to break that barrier.
Beyond having to be a rescue (adopt, don’t shop!), each dog is also an American Kennel Club Certified Canine Good Citizen. Which gives the dog (and human) the proper training and certification to be successful with their commitment to helping others.
“I began to realize what these children go through and it inspired me even more to expand the program.” Kim continued by saying many more children in the area could benefit from Canines Helping Kids In Crisis as there are plenty of foster homes in the community that we may not even know about. Find out how you can help or donate!
There is no doubt that Downtown St. Pete is a growing community with personalities, just like Kim Skrovanek, who help everything go round – and we are proud to have people like her here! Create a profile on DowntownStPete.com to meet other unique individuals, find out what places to visit, and which events to attend in DTSP. If you know an interesting person who is beneficial to the area, let us know. We can’t wait to hear from you!