CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A program called the Healing Species is forming empathy in the hearts of children by using man's best friend as an example.
A class of Marshall Elementary fifth graders are learning life lessons with an 11-year-old healing dog named Chelsey.
The lessons the kids are learning run as deep as the scars of the animals they spend time with. Healing dogs like 2-year-old Roxy are one of many of the dogs that have been abused, neglected, abandoned and some left to die.
But with hope and lots of love, these dogs have been transformed to show students that no matter what happens to you in life, it does not define who you are. What defines you is your heart and how you respond.
"They come into the classroom with wagging tails, they love the attention and they just have that factor of being able to convey the messages of healing species," said Healing Species director Adele Little.
The message the Healing Species program hopes to convey through the dogs is empathy towards others. Little says the eleven week course is more than just pet therapy. The program focuses on bullying prevention and how to be an advocate as well as acts of responsibility and how to succeed.
Healing species was started ten years ago in Orangeburg by Cheri Brown Thompson. At the time she was in law school, she was fascinated by the link between violence towards animals and violent crime in society.
Currently, the Healing Species is in midland area schools, Florida, Texas and even New Zealand, Little says she hopes that the program will grow through the nation. She says the Healing Species is currently for fourth through eighth grade students, there are nearly 50 healing dogs in the program.