WATCH | This isn’t a dog-eat-dog world. Here, kids and canines are healing together
Many kids never realise the delight of looking after a dog. To some, they aren’t beloved pets, but pests – sometimes scavenging, often flea-ridden.
This perception can lead to cruelty and abuse towards innocent animals. To prevent this, Nina Greyling is providing opportunities to develop a beautiful bond between dogs and children.
Working with The Underdog Project in Hout Bay, Cape Town, Greyling serves to uplift at-risk youth while bringing joy to shelter animals. It’s a therapeutic intervention for each party, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive.
Participants in the programme come from local high schools and care centres where animal therapy is recommended.
Statistically, just witnessing animal cruelty can increase a person’s propensity to commit violence. The work of the project is invaluable as it helps decrease exposure to abusive environments, restores a positive view of animals, and cultivates the capacity for empathy.
Some of the teenagers in the programme are at risk of joining gangs, but their involvement here goes a long way to safeguard them from succumbing to a life of crime.
The dogs are equally protected. They’re either strays from the area or from the Domestic Animal Rescue Group (DARG), which serves as the project’s base.
Dogs are taught to sit, stay, and paw, as well as basic agility like jumping through a hoop or shimmying through a tunnel.
Success and praise augment their confidence, and the adoption rate of these trained animals is noticeably higher than those who have not gone through the programme.
“Both the kids and the dogs leave having experienced what it feels like to be acknowledged,” Greyling says.
While many children haven’t had positive experiences with dogs and vice versa, Greyling believes it’s not too late to change that.
Through this project, she’s nurturing love, compassion, and confidence in each pair. They become sources of comfort for each other as they grow, unleashing joy into their lives and futures.