Below is a letter that our founder, Cheri Thompson, wrote to students in the Healing Dogs Program
at the Department of Juvenile Justice…
To my dearest Healing Dog Students,
My most precious young men whom I love; and God loves so dearly! This is my chance to speak to you, directly, straight from my heart, not within the confines of a “lesson plan”- or a “class”- but from my deepest part of my heart.
I feel like I know each of you even though I haven’t met you because Miss Marie, and Miss Amanda, – and even Miss Jessica who has worked with you less,- talk about you non-stop- – you would think that you are each rock stars, super stars, as much as they love you, talk about you, – — – and considering how much promise as they see in you, how much good, and “star-power” they see in you.
And I believe them! I expect each of you to go on and do good things.
I hope they share with you in detail the lifestyle of the Character Based Unites at Perry, Lee, and other Correctional Institutions, with the point being- – that no matter where you find yourself- – band together with others who are seeking good, who are seeking to be honest, to earn a fair wage for a fair day’s work, who will not steal from you or others, who will not bully or intimidate to get their way.
MY COMMMISSION TO YOU: If you were personally beat up, or touched in private areas while still young; if you are carrying hurts and injuries that maybe long ago have had the outside marks fade, but the inside wounds still inside, then I beg of you- – seek someone who you can trust- – – please look high and low, look deep, look at a church, look at a community center, look at a school- from the Guidance department, or for a teacher you like or trust, look toward the school nurse, or a Principal who cares, look for a School Officer, or a Chaplain, look for a social worker- look for an Aunt or neighbor, look for someone, someone – – who will council you, who will accept you, who will be kind to you, who will advocate for you.
It took my son- my adopted son- six adults, HE HAD TO TELL SIX ADULTS- before anyone would help him. Finally, a new Guidance Counselor was hired at his school the following year, and he told her his same, old, tired story, and she was the first person to say, “Joe, I am so sorry. That is horrible. I am going to help you.”- – Never give up on yourself. You deserve to be safe.
You deserve to find success and happiness.
You deserve to know that you are special! Precious! That no one – no one else- has the exact same gifts and talents that you have!
If someone hurts you- you do not have to hurt back. I want you to be safe. If you can possibly remove yourself from conflict, do so. Take as example from Miss Amanda, who served time in a Federal Prison. She had her time so scheduled-out that she was exhausted and tired, even in prison, from attending chapel, Bible Studies, Group therapies, work, and schooling studies….
That the “trouble-making-groups” just dismissed her as not helpful at all to their persuasion. She
“dissuaded” their advances by making it so apparent that she was on such a totally different path
of behavior, that they basically dismissed her and left her be. She would have been “way to much work” to “turn.” From there, she was able to spread her wings and fly!
I have heard the stories of how you laid on the floor to assist Winston. How you helped Jessica save the spider. How one of you almost stomped a “rolly-poly-or-some-sort-of-bug” on the sidewalk- – just because you could- – and because that was reflex and old behavior- – but you stopped yourself “mid-stomp”- and allowed him to keep his little life—as insignificant as it may seem to us- it matters in the Universe and to that little bug! I have seen you achieve.
I have heard about how you carried Winston to the car when he was too tired to walk due to his handicap. I have heard about how you engage, and listen, and have meaningful discussions with your instructors. I have heard about how you are so very respectful, how you never use profanity, or intimidation, or rudeness, or belligerence in our Healing Dogs classes.
I want you to know that I HAVE SEEN WITH MY OWN EYES, I HAVE BEEN THE WITNESS, TO SEE THE AMAZING IMPACT AND EFFECT YOU HAVE HAD ON DOGS WHO OTHERWISE WOULD NEVER STAND A CHANCE AT GETTING A HOME. Maddie and Sophie used to be so wild, and hyper, and unruly, and jumping, and barking, and yapping, and almost snapping, and clawing, and competitive, and STARVING FOR ATTENTION, that I was literally afraid to walk into their fenced yards. They would jump on me and scratch my face; they would jump up and knock me in my jaw and hurt me, they would claw at my clothes and rip my shirt, they would ruin my jeans and make my clothes filthy dirty, and I was a little afraid that if they knocked me down –the fall might hurt me, or that they might actually snap at me in competition of who got my hand of attention.
Yesterday, I went into their pen and they sat. They loved me. And they let me love them back. They wagged their tails, and whole end bodies, and were calm, and sure of themselves. MORE THAN ANYTHING- IT WAS apparent that they finally knew they were loved. They were calm! They were behaved. No “commanding voice” no commands of “trained-instructions”- – just a “heart change,” a “new dog mentality!” You did this! This will finally allow families to see them. To touch them. To consider taking them home!
Winston was the same way. Even with his physical challenge, he was strong, and determined, and would not listen. Being a pit bull, I made the mistake of judging him, and feeling slightly afraid. Inside of his fenced yard, he would be so assertive, almost aggressive, to get out, and to play, and to grab your hand into his mouth- that without meaning to- being so strong, he could hurt you. HE DOES NOT DO THAT ANYMORE! I feel 100% confident to get into his fenced area alone with him now! Already having the “label” as a pit bull, this is 100% critical to his survival to be adopted! You probably saved his life! I will never, ever walk past his yard again without thinking of you- – even when he goes to his family one day, and a new dogs starts a path of healing from that space, I will remember that space as Winston’s old home- – and HOW YOU saved him by making it possible for him to look for a family.
Boys, you can change lives just like this for the rest of your lives. You are good. You have good to give. You can make an impact. You can change things. First for yourself—and for others around you. How? By one small action, one small choice, one small decision at a time. The choice of who you let into your inner circle, of who you select as a friend… Of who you choose to trust. Of what you choose to do when you “THINK” no one else is looking.
But you are looking. Do it for you. Respect yourself first. Then respect will find you.
“Seek out” the good in life; and if I may say, look for God. If you look for Him, He will look for you back. He’s actually already looking. Let Him find you. One of my favorite lines in all of history is a line that says, “God, here am I.” Maybe Miss Marie or Amanda will tell you which King said that line.
Go where He dwells. Find friends among His friends.
Don’t look at what others say. Look at what they do. And you will know who to believe.
I send my blessings to you. My faith is in you. I send my love to you. If I could be there today I would- and I know you understand my work for Healing Species today could not be altered, it is a pivotal session that was impossible to alter, that involved many, many players, outside business people, as well as other staffers, and it will affect the long-term future of Healing Species. So that we can continue to serve other young men, just as promising as you are!
If you believe in prayer, please pray for Healing Species. We need you.
I send you my love- more deeply and truly to you than you know.