Circle of Love
Learning Through Radar
The program's strict rules reinforce the lesson. "If I acted out, I couldn't go to class," Michelle says. That happened to one of her classmates, and Michelle remembers the effect it had on the dog the boy was working with. "He was crying in his crate; he was so upset. And I thought, I can't do that to Radar."
Training Radar helped Michelle learn patience as well. "It's like teaching a baby the ABC's," she says of training Radar. "It takes time." During class and whenever she was free, Michelle worked with the golden retriever, who was originally considered "too lazy" to be a full-fledged assistance dog. Instead, she was slated to become a therapy dog, a job that mostly involves being petted. But Michelle felt Radar had greater potential. "I realized that when I was excited and motivated, so was Radar," says Michelle. Her instinct was correct: After six months of Michelle's intensive behavioral training, Radar had improved so much that she was switched to the assistance track. Six months later, Michelle had her own outbursts under control.
"Without this program I might be in jail or worse," says Michelle, now 20 and a full-time college student. In addition to her schoolwork she holds down two jobs -- one with ECAD, providing animal-assisted therapy to troubled children. She hopes to make this a career.
Meanwhile, "Radar's gotten Kate on her feet," says the little girl's father, Peter Robb, 46, a captain in the New York City Fire Department. "Holding the dog's harness, Kate can walk, and the more she walks, the more she strengthens her core muscles and legs. That means there's hope she'll walk on her own one day."
When Michelle learned Radar would assist little Kate, she was overwhelmed with happiness and pride. "Radar made all the difference in my life," she says, "and now she's doing the same for Kate."