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Twister’s New Home

posted June 21st, 2016 by
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What's in Your Dog Shampoo

Twister’s New Home

By Lauren Cavagnolo

Photos by Sirius Photography

 

Displaced after the Moore tornadoes, a dog finds his place at the Tulsa Boys’ Home

“A house just isn’t a home without a dog.”

It’s a statement to which many TulsaPets Magazine readers can relate. And now, so can the young men of the Tulsa Boys’ Home.

Though it is temporary, the campus is home for the boys, says Jeff Johnson, volunteer coordinator for the Tulsa Boys’ Home. And for many people, the idea of a home includes a dog.

So when the staff decided to adopt a young chocolate Lab named Twister a year and a half ago, the boys were thrilled.

“This is their shot at having a pet. When these kids look back on their life, and some-one says, ‘Did you have a pet growing up?’ this is going to be the one that 64 of these boys refer to,” Johnson says.

The boys living at the facility in Sands Springs range in age from 11 to 17 years old. The group provides assistance to those struggling with substance addiction, as well as boys who have become wards of the state for a variety of reasons including abuse and neglect. The length of stay can vary from six months to two years, depending on the program and needs of the boy.

Not unlike some of the boys residing there, Twister’s journey to the Tulsa Boys’ Home began with misfortune. On May 20, 2013, the town of Moore was struck by an EF5 tornado. Many pets, including Twister, were separated from their families in the destruction of the storm.

Oklahoma City-based organization A New Leash On Life, Inc., took in many of these animals, as residents tried to piece their homes and lives back together. 

“He was found, and we housed a lot of dogs here during the 30 days when their owners were looking for them. He is one that was never claimed,” says Barbara Lewis, CEO of A New Leash On Life, Inc.

A decision was made to enroll him in the Pen Pals Prison Program, a 10-week course that pairs inmates with shelter dogs. The inmates teach the dogs basic manners, obedience, and correct any behavioral problems.

Since they didn’t know his name, and he was a refugee of the Moore tornado, the inmates named him Twister, according to Lewis.

“About the time they were ready to graduate, we were contacted by the Tulsa Boys’ Home. They were looking for a resident dog, and I said, ‘I think I have just the dog for you,’” Lewis says.

 

Unconditional Love

‘The interaction with the boys and Twister is amazing to watch,” says Kaycee Aragon, manager of the Eagle Lodge on the Tulsa Boys’ Home campus. “Sometimes these boys will have the worst day ever, and they will come through these doors, and it’s a whole different demeanor when they see Twister. They go from being mad to happy.”

Johnson says most of the kids on campus have not been raised in a traditional family setting and don’t fully grasp the concepts of unconditional love and forgiveness.

“These things they can’t even relate to; you can’t even describe it to them because they don’t have a reference point,” Johnson says. “Now with this dog, they can see [he] loves them unconditionally. This dog does not care if they threw a radio through the window earlier; that dog is still going to love them. Most of them probably haven’t had someone who treats them that way.”

Stormy Bullard, youth and family counselor at the Tulsa Boys’ Home, says Twister is present for many of the therapy sessions, bringing with him a calming effect on the boys. He also provides a welcome dis-traction, helping the boys to open up about more difficult or uncomfortable topics.

 “He definitely helps them in ways that we probably don’t even realize,” Bullard says.

The benefits of having a canine on campus extend beyond the therapy sessions. “They learn how to be more empathetic, how they treat him and how that relates to their other relationships,” Bullard says.

Having Twister around also adds that homey element to the campus. “When they are having a bad day, they just want to hang out with him or snuggle with him,” Bullard says.

And when the boys need a playmate to let loose with, Twister is their perfect companion. “A lot of these boys have a lot of energy,” Johnson says. “That dog is not going to get tired. You can take him out to the pond with a stick and throw it all day long and wear these boys out one at a time.”

“There is so much more love around here now that we have a dog.” Johnson adds. “All of the other lodges want a dog. They all want the dog to live in their lodge.”

 

Twice the Fun

Through the support of an anonymous donor, A New Leash On Life, Inc., provides the Tulsa Boys’ Home with dog food each year. And when they made their yearly delivery in December, it was the perfect opportunity to let Lewis know they were ready for a second dog.

“I had a couple of dogs just show up on my porch and couldn’t find the owners,” Lewis says. “And I said if you don’t mind a three-legged dog, I have just the dog. And we let the boys name him, and they named him Captain Jack.

“When I delivered him, I told the boys, it’s going to be up to you guys to train him to come when he is called and sit and lie down and do all the basic stuff. That’s what they are doing.”

And the boys couldn’t be happier about it. Jacob Hardin, a resident of Tulsa Boys’ Home, helped train Captain as he affectionately calls him. Even though it is more responsibility and work, to Hardin it is worth it.

 “I’ve been a dog person for a long time, but moving around so much I never really had a dog to stay with. Now I actually get to be here with a dog  and help train him,” Hardin says.

Hardin says having the dogs on campus has encouraged the boys to be more active and gives them a reason to go outside and play. The dogs even help some of the boys get along better.

“Not many kids here get along with each other; he brought some kids back together,” Hardin says. “There are kids here who don’t have a friend but have Twister.”

Captain Jack, in particular, has been a companion to Hardin, hanging out in his room and listening to him practice guitar.

“When you don’t have someone to talk to, there you go; he’ll sit down and listen to you, every word, and he won’t go until you say you want to be alone,” Hardin says of Captain.

Johnson is equally pleased with the addition of Captain Jack to the Tulsa Boys’ Home campus.

“Once again, she hit a home run. Barbara understands this place,” Johnson says. “With the New Leash On Life program, they have been so supportive of us. They don’t just give us a dog and disappear. They are there to help us out and support us. They care about these dogs and want them to have a right fit.”

And as much as the dogs help the boys, the boys are just as important to the dogs.

“[Twister] lost his family,” Johnson says, “And so now, they can be his family.”

March / April OKC Pets Magazine

posted March 11th, 2015 by
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20150315

Publisher – Marilyn King

Creative Director – Debra Fite

Advertising Sales – Marilyn King, Steve Kirkpatrick, Nancy Harrison, Cheryl Steckler, Susan Hills, Tina Collie

Web Manager – Steve Kirkpatrick

Editor – Anna Holton-Dean

Contributing Writers – Marilyn King, Holly Brady Clay, Emily Cefalo, Pat Becker, Lauren Cavagnolo, Camille Hulen, Sherri Goodall, Nancy Haddock, Bria Bolton Moore, Dolores Probasta, Nancy Gallimore

PO Box 14128 Tulsa, OK 74159-1128