Brooke’s Legacy Animal Rescue (BLAR) saves homeless animals from kill shelters and gives them a second chance at adoption through assisted pet therapy and training from campers at Pawsitive Kids Camp (PKC).
BLAR came from tragedy when 18-year-old Brooke Ashley and her 7-week-old puppy Mia were involved in a tragic accident on their way to Brooke’s grandparents’ house for her birthday party. Mia fully recovered from her head trauma, but Brooke passed away after undergoing two separate emergency brain surgeries and a seven-day coma.
Brooke loved animals, from nine years of barrel racing with her Quarter Horse Red Dawn, to her involvement in The Happy Trails 4-H Club to working at her mom’s grooming shop, Groomingdale’s Of Naples. Although Brooke didn’t get a second chance at life, BLAR is committed to second chances for pets who would have been euthanized by providing them with adoption to great, committed families.
“There was no plan to start an animal rescue,” Tink Bechtol, BLAR founder and Brooke’s mother, said. “I’m in the pet industry and my daughter helped me. I started volunteering for an animal rescue, and God directed me to this path to keep me from being overwhelmed with the loss of my daughter. It helped me and it’s helped so many other people get through things in their life.”
Along with offering animal adoptions that have saved over 350 animals each year from kill shelters, BLAR also collaborates with PKC to provide eight dogs for camp. PKC offers a week-long camp for children in grades 2-5 and 6-8 where they are matched with a dog awaiting adoption from BLAR to learn dog safety, training the dog to become more adoptable, as well as work on their own self-esteem, behavior management and self-control through animal assisted play therapy techniques. The pilot program for the camp started back in July two years ago and was approached about making it into its own non-profit.
“I thought it would be good thing for him to do—it was very unique and it would help him come out of his shell a little bit and work with animals which he loves to do,” Kim Wilson, PKC camper’s mother, said. “I thought that it really taught him a lot about self-discipline, responsibility, got him involved in the community and took ownership over making sure the dog got a good home and was well trained. He wanted so badly to make sure that his dog was adopted that he stayed home from his family vacation to Busch Gardens.”
“I know how much animals can help—not only does it build self-esteem in the kids, but it also builds self-esteem in the dogs,” Bechtol said. “It’s a win-win for both, the kid gets to teach and train the dog and it’s their dog for the whole week. Some of the kids in the camp have been bullied and some of the dogs in the camp have been mistreated. The kids are told at the beginning of the week that they are preparing their dog for a forever home.”
The camp counselors consist of licensed mental health professionals and dog trainers who help the campers prepare the dogs to be adopted for the closing adoption event. In the past two years, more than 60 dogs have attended camp and been adopted.
“The dogs are more adoptable because they’re working on their house training and behavior,” Tara Moser, PKC President, Lead Counselor and BLAR volunteer, said. “The kids who end up teaching the parents what they’re doing wrong at home with their family dog. We share the story of Brooke’s Legacy and the kids share the compassion of what happens to these dogs with kill shelters in the community and how no dog should be thrown away.”
The Summer 2015 Pawsitive Kids Camp will take place June 29-July 3 for 2nd-5th graders and August 10-14 for 6th-8th graders. Brooke’s Legacy Animal Rescue holds an adoption event every Saturday at Petco in Naples from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and one Sunday each month.
“I always like to hear the stories of our dogs who have been adopted and what they’re doing,” Bechtol said. “Our dogs could do anything with the right owner—service dog for the police, search and rescue. Tara has dogs in her practice who take that energy and absorb it—it helps the people who are going through some kind of tragedy in their life and it can help them get through it.”
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