Program developed by Yale University uses shelter dogs to teach children life lessons

World Today

A program in New York City matches shelter dogs with schools, where they teach life lessons to students who normally don't get them at school. Lessons that include compassion, diversity and pet adoptions.

From China to the United States, dogs are increasingly becoming a common site in the classroom. In New York, almost four dozen schools have adopted shelter dogs as part of a program known as Mutt-i-grees.

CGTN’s Karina Huber reports the program is proving to be wildly successful.

Welcome to a kindergarten class at PS075, a public school in New York City. On this day, it has two teachers, 11 students and one dog named Maisy. Throughout the day, Maisy roams from classroom to classroom at her leisure. In each she has her own bed.

Maisy is an integral part of a curriculum developed by Yale University and the North Shore Animal League America. Called Mutt-i-grees, it seeks to teach children about empathy, responsibility and resilience through human animal interaction.

“It’s teaching core critical thinking, 21st century skills that help them not just in school but for a lifetime,” said Jayne Vitale, Director of Mutt-i-grees, North Shore Animal League America.

 Vitale said the shelter dogs are carefully selected and screened by a behaviorist before being considered as a school comfort dog.

The children walk Maisy and learn about her story of survival through the shelter system. She is often brought in to help with conflict resolution and grief counseling.

The school’s principal said Maisy is able to reach the kids in unique ways.

“I think focusing on something other than yourself is huge and having this wonderful dog to be part of your school family takes you out of yourself and you start to experience these big ideas,” said Robert O’Brien, the principal at PS075.

It was one of the first schools in New York City to adopt the program. But it has been so successful that there are now 43 different schools in New York City with dogs in their hallways. The city’s Department of Education says it plans on expanding it even further in the years to come.

At the end of the day, Maisy goes home to mom, a teacher at PS075, who agreed to adopt her and bring her to school every day.

“It sounds cliché, but she just lifts the morale of the school,” said Cody Rosen, a kindergarten teacher at PS075.”It’s like a piece of happiness and love that we put into the school that makes the staff, students, everyone just so much happier and enjoys coming to school.”

Students who look forward to going to school.  What more could a parent ask for.