Covenant House homeless children work with shelter dogs in Teacher's Pet program

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Some young people in Detroit share a common bond with some very special animals they can relate to. The dogs could not be more excited and the young people learning to train them are pretty enthusiastic, too.

The program is called Teacher's Pet, where the kids of Covenant House Michigan leave their shelter to visit another one - the homeless dogs staying at Detroit Animal Care and Control.

"I just grew a big connection because I was feeling what they were feeling because I'm like, you guys are in a shelter and I'm in a shelter as well," said Robyn Wesley.

"We know you have to be patient with dogs," said Christopher Taylor. "Because they are no different than us. Like imagine if you just came to a new environment and you're just terrified."

The kids of Covenant House have been through a lot. Once homeless they're now getting a second chance at life - a lot like the dogs they're caring for and learning to train.

"Most of the people we're working with at Covenant House, they're young people looking for a leg up, looking for a job, trying to get some skills and working with dogs who are trying to get a leg up, trying to learn some stuff," said Laura Witkowski.

Witkowski is the facilitator for Teacher's Pet. She's seen firsthand how the connection between the dogs and the young people has impacted all of them.

"Dogs naturally look for companionship, look for guidance, look for love and that's exactly what our young people need," said Gerry Piro, executive director Covenant House. 

Piro is the executive director of Covenant House. He brought the Teacher's Pet program to Detroit about a year and a half ago. 

"A dog is non-judgmental. They don't care where you came from, what you look like. All they want to know is if you care about them," he said. "Basically it allows them to work with someone that they love that will love them back."

It's the kind of interaction these kids, who've been through trauma and abandonment ,really need.

"Animals have a heart just as well as people have a heart. I feel like everybody have a heart, no matter what position or spot you're in, somebody is always going to have a heart for somebody," said Wesley.

Not only have the dogs brought Robyn joy, she and others have gotten a job out of this program as well. It's proof that the training through Teacher's Pet pays off - both for the pups and the young people.

"I started as a volunteer first. You always have to start as a volunteer here and then they just gave me the job yesterday," Taylor said.