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Therapy Dogs Make a Major Difference for Underserved Kids

"Always, no matter what, show everything love because there is no worse feeling than feeling not loved.” These were the words of 13-year old Brianna at the end of a 10-week program with A Fair Shake for Youth. Led by a Fair Shake instructor, each week Brianna and her classmates worked hands-on with three therapy dogs and their guardians.

They practiced giving commands, taught tricks and tried agility – encouraging a dog through a tunnel or over a jump. They discussed animal shelters, rescue and breed discrimination, topics that often resonated with their own life experience.

A Fair Shake for Youth works with underserved kids in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the South Bronx. As the kids work with the dogs they practice building a positive and respectful relationship. They build empathy as they look at the world from the dogs’ point of view and self-esteem as the dogs listen to them. They begin to see more possibilities for themselves and their future. I was surprised that the dogs like me and listen to me, “ said Juan. “It made me feel like a leader,” said Daniela.

Sam, a 6-year old Blue-Heeler mix from a kill shelter in Georgia has worked with AFair Shake for the last four years. “These dogs know they’re doing something good,“ says volunteer Brenda Johnson. “And it is great for them too – Sam loves all of the attention and socializing.”

Audrey Hendler founded A Fair Shake five years ago. Audrey had transitioned her marketing career to teach in a prison dog program. Seeing the positive impact the dogs had on the inmates Audrey realized there was an untapped opportunity to bring the power of dogs to bear at a much earlier age.

A Fair Shake has reached over 1,000 youth and now has a waiting list of schools – including schools in Sunset Park, East New York and Crown Heights. A Fair Shake needs more volunteer teams – handler and dog.

We hope you and pup might be interested.

Dogs who work with A Fair Shake are either registered therapy dogs or AKC Canine Good Citizens. A new therapy dog training class is scheduled for Sunday evening – January 24th and February 7th from 6:00-8:00at Doggie Academy, 213 21st Street, South Slope.

For more information or to get involved, please visit or email

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