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Mutt-i-grees® in the News Spring 2015

Dear Colleagues,

Are any of your students especially dedicated to helping Mutt-i-grees in your community? If so, encourage them to apply for the 2015-2016 Mutt-i-grees Curriculum National Student Ambassadors Program!

The inaugural class of National Student Ambassadors - Layne Meek, Ragan Fletcher, and Maddy Pennington - have set the bar high, but we know your students are up to the challenge. From organizing teen councils and Mutt-i-grees clubs to presenting at regional conferences, we are so proud of these teens for effecting positive change in their communities and making a noticeable difference in the lives of shelter animals!

To learn more about the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum National Student Ambassadors Program, please visit

We can't wait to to hear from you and your students!

What's Happening at Mutt-i-grees Schools & Libraries

Mission: Mutt-i-grees: Tour For Life Offers Opportunities for School-Shelter Collaboration

Students around the country have accepted our Mission: Mutt-i-grees challenge and have pledged to raise funds and awareness for Mutt-i-grees in their communities. At the Fenton Charter Public Schools in Southern California, for example, the month of March was full of Mutt-i-grees Madness. As part of their fundraising efforts, students and educators hosted a variety of fun events to benefit East Valley Animal Shelter in Van Nuys, CA, including selling Mutt-i-grees wristbands.

In Ashland, KY, members of the Mutt-i-grees Teen Council worked closely with staff from Ashland Animal Rescue Fund, a local rescue organization, to find homes for animals at North Shore Animal League America's recent Tour For Life stop. The students manned six activity stations, which engaged children and families in attendance, walked adoptable dogs, cleaned cages, and assisted shelter staff in a variety of ways. Because of the hard work and dedication of these teenagers, more than twenty animals found loving homes. As part of the celebration, Ashland's mayor, Chuck Charles, declared Sunday, March 22, 2015 as AARF Tour for Life Day, highlighting the work by the Mutt-i-grees Teen Council to elevate the status of the shelter pet. Mission: Mutt-i-grees extends until the middle of May, so stay tuned for more stories from other schools!

If your school, library, or afterschool program would like to accept our Mission: Mutt-i-grees challenge, please visit to register. Don't miss out on your chance to win a grant worth $1,500!

Brooklyn High School Students Raise Awareness of Shelter Pets

With help from a dedicated educator, students in Brooklyn are making a difference in the lives of shelter animals. Toni Mancini teaches creative writing at the High School for Innovation in Advertising and Media (iAM) in Brooklyn, NY and facilitates the school's Mutt-i-grees Club. iAM is part of a select group of Career and Technical Education (CTE) schools in New York City that blend rigorous academics with real-life work skills. Members of the Mutt-i-grees Club - fifteen 11th grade students - meet once a week for an hour to work on a variety of service learning projects. Because of the school's focus on collaboration and advertising, Toni encourages students to use the communication skills they are learning in the classroom to educate their peers about important humane issues. Their first project? Raising awareness of the horrible atrocities taking place at puppy mills. After researching the topic earlier this year, students created posters that included before and after photos of puppy mill rescues and came up with slogans to raise awareness of the abuse and neglect these dogs face. The club also held a donation drive to benefit puppy mill rescues at North Shore Animal League America, where they participated in an intensive one-day internship this spring.

Toni praises her school's administration for their support of her efforts. "Other teachers are interested in what we're doing and often comment on how engaged the students are," she adds. Her club gives students a safe place to go after school, where they are accepted and share a common interest. The activities provide students with the opportunity to put academic skills into action (critical thinking skills, research), while improving social and emotional skills (cooperation, decision making, perspective taking) at the same time. Overall, the students are learning that they can make a difference.

Virginia Library Hosts Second Annual Mutt-i-grees Day

This month, Charles E. Beatley Library in Alexandria, VA hosted its second annual Mutt-i-grees Day as a way to encourage community collaboration and promote shelter pet adoptions. For the second year in a row, Operation Paws for Homes, Inc. (OPH), an organization that rescues dogs of all breeds and ages from high-kill shelters and provides pet adoption services to families located in Virginia, Washington DC, Maryland, Southern Pennsylvania and neighboring states, partnered with the library for a totally paw-some event. Children and families were able to spend time with some friendly Mutt-i-grees while they made paper bag dog puppets and listened to Lucy Rescued by Harriet Ziefet, a book about a rescued dog who is having trouble adjusting to her new home. OPH is looking forward to collaborating with the library on upcoming Mutt-i-grees events this summer. If your library is hosting a Mutt-i-grees program, please be sure to let us know! Email us at [email protected] for an opportunity to be highlighted on our website.

The New Dog on Campus

Dixie might be the most popular teacher in the South Side Bee Branch School District in Van Buren County, AR, but she's not your typical educator. As the school district's newest therapy dog, she is helping co-teach lessons from the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum to students in preschool through twelfth grade. But that's not all. The loveable pup is also making an impactful difference in the lives of the educators and students she works with. Dixie, who assists elementary school counselor Tonya Lovell, spends her day traveling throughout all the buildings on campus. She visits elementary classrooms for whole group instruction and then sees individual students. Her duties also include being available to students who ask for her during hard days. Tonya notes many circumstances where a student is having a meltdown or is sad over the loss of a family member and they are immediately drawn to Dixie. The sweet, mild-mannered dog seems to serve as a symbol for community in this tight-knit school district. "I feel that she's helped to bring our elementary and high school closer together," Tonya explains. "She is now a common bond throughout our administration, students, faculty, and the community." To read more about Dixie and to meet other members of the Mutt-i-grees Canine Corps, please visit

Keeping You Informed

Raising Kids Who Want to Read

In a recent interview, Daniel Willingham, author of Raising Kids Who Read, discusses the difference between teaching kids to read and teaching them to love reading. To foster a love of reading in young children, Willingham explains, we must create warm, positive associations with books and with reading. We know that reading to a dog provides a relaxed atmosphere, which allows children to practice reading skills. Creating a Mutt-i-grees reading area in your school or library can be a great way to encourage reading. Willingham also suggests creating an environment that supports exploration. Since much of what we learn about the world is connected to reading, supporting students' interest in knowledge is essential. How do you use Mutt-i-grees to encourage a lifelong love of reading in the children you work with? Share your success stories with us at [email protected].

Routines Boost Social and Emotional Health

Daily routines are a part of our everyday lives; you may take your dog on an afternoon walk or stop at your favorite coffee shop each morning. Being able to count on these daily activities is comforting, isn't it? Routine is, of course, also a key element in developing an obedient, stress-free dog; dogs need a framework within which to feel secure and to behave appropriately. In addition to being beneficial for dogs and adults, routines are especially important for children. According to a study in Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics published last year, certain routines also enhance the social and emotional health of young children. Children who sing, play, read, tell stories, and have dinner with their families are twice as likely to have good social and emotional health, and for every routine a parent and child do together, the social-emotional benefit grows. What routines do you use with the children in your life, either at home or in your classroom? How might you be able to create routines that enhance your students' social and emotional health?

Behind the Scenes

Mutt-i-grees Youth Development Programs Benefit Students in Need

We have each had experiences in our lives that have transformed us in meaningful ways; perhaps a few kind words from your elementary school teacher or support from a basketball coach helped motivate you to do your best. At North Shore Animal League America, we strive to provide memorable experiences to the children and teens we work with through our Mutt-i-grees youth development programs. Making connections with animals, either on-site at our shelter or at schools during assembly programs and classroom visits, provides students with unique opportunities to learn about themselves and each other. Over the past few years, our youth development programs have evolved and expanded to include hands-on internships, mentorships, and school visits that focus on building self-confidence and resiliency. As Mutt-i-grees Outreach and Youth Development Programming Manager, Jayne Vitale has seen firsthand the tremendous impact the programs have had on students; particularly on those who are at-risk or have special needs. "The transformation we see is incredible," she explains. "In just a day or an afternoon - in a moment, really - you can see the hesitation and insecurity melt away. As soon as they interact with animals, you can't wipe the smiles off their faces."

Jayne, who often uses her two puppy mill rescues, Simba and Turtle, to engage shy participants and encourage discussion, has developed invaluable relationships with community organizations that serve at-risk youth and children and teens with disabilities. Some of these students come from difficult situations and may not have ever had a caring adult show interest in their lives, so these programs provide them with a unique experience that they will never forget. "We are instilling memories in children - something for them to hold on to that they can always remember; a memory of a healthy relationship built on loyalty, trust, and love," Jayne explains. "One brief moment can change the entire life of a child for the better. As their feeling of self-worth grows, so does their hope for their futures. I feel honored to be a part of this experience."

Fridays with Finn: A Yale Library Dog's Story

If you stop by the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library at Yale University on a Friday during the academic year, you may run into a kind-hearted, scruffy fellow at the circulation desk. No, he's not a popular professor on campus, he's the library's newest employee, Finn, a Mutt-i-gree rescued from a high-kill shelter by Yale nursing student, Krista A. Knudson. Since January 2014, Finn has maintained his office hours at the medical school library - he even has his own Yale ID! For two hours each week, he provides comfort and relief to students and faculty, many of whom are working on stressful projects or studying for exams. According to Krista, some give Finn a quick, soft pat on the head and visit for a minute or two, while others stay for hours. Each week, she sees what an impact Finn's presence has on library visitors. "I can't count how many times I've heard 'Boy, I'm glad you're here!' or 'I'm so happy to see you!'," Krista explains. She says she has seen firsthand the healing power of human-animal interaction; in particular with those who have recently experienced the loss of a family member or pet. During an instant of acute grief, Finn's gentle demeanor and kind disposition offers a moment of respite and compassion. "I consider it quite an honor to be a witness to that moment," Krista says humbly. Finn has become somewhat of a celebrity on campus. He was the subject of a recent study on dogs and stress reduction and is a part of other research on campus. The library's program coordinator has also discussed his impact at national conferences. It seems his gentle, almost human-like eyes and distinctive fur coat make him unique and approachable. Krista says strangers are drawn to Finn because of his interesting characteristics; she thinks his appeal is credited to the fact that he looks the way he does, a lesson in self-acceptance that we can learn from this lovable Mutt-i-gree!

What We're Reading

In preparation for this year's superhero summer reading theme, we have been busy sorting through some of our favorite books about dogs and cats who have made a difference in the lives of others around them. There are many options for students at every reading level - check out our Pinterest board for some suggestions to add to your collection:

Stay Connected: Upcoming Conferences and Trainings

April 29, 2015
Mutt-i-grees Orientation & Training
Middle Country Public Library
Selden Branch
575 Middle Country Road
Selden, NY 11784

April 30, 2015
Mutt-i-grees Orientation
Grand Canyon University
3300 W Camelback Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85017

May 1, 2015
Arizona Professors of Educational Administration Annual Convention
Northern Arizona University
Phoenix - North Campus Greenway
I-17 15451 N 28th Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85053 May 30, 2015

May 30, 2015
Early Childhood Extravaganza
Ashland Community Technical College
Ashland, KY

June 11, 2015
Early Childhood Team Regional Forum
Morehead, KY

For more information, please visit