Rescue group educates teens about dog ownership and care

Published: Feb. 8, 2018 at 6:39 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2018 at 2:09 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Education does not end with the final school bell at Armstrong High School in Richmond. In fact, for some students, the bell only signals another round of learning, thanks to a special after school program.

The students focus on everything from math and science to music and sewing. However, one class is a bit different, because one of its teachers has four legs.

It looks like any other classroom - There is an instructor in front and students listening to what he has to say.

However, if you look down, you'll find another instructor making his rounds, complete with a collar - and at times - a kiss.

His name is "Twinkie," short for "Tommy Twinkle Toes."

He is a therapy dog with Ring Dog Rescue, which is an organization that rescues and rehabilitates pit bull-type dogs.

"We are just focusing on educating the public on what proper animal husbandry looks like and care for your animal. And giving a greater perspective on what rescue looks like," said Ring Dog Rescue trainer Brandy Schofield.

The rescue has partnered with the school's Center for Empowerment program to offer a seven-week course throughout the school year called "Cupcake's Classroom."

"These students are the next generation of pet owners, and one of the things we wanted to do was give them some more information about pit bulls in general, about dog ownership, about the resources that are out there for people who have dogs, and some of the regulations as well," said Christian Koshock, site manager for Armstrong's Center for Empowerment program.

Jaleel Johnson signed up for the class because his family owns a pit bull, and the 16-year-old wanted to learn more about caring for the dog properly.

So far, he has learned quite a bit.

"How to correctly take care of animals, the proper way you should have a dog, the proper way to shelter them, especially winter times. And about leashing animals. The way you should and shouldn't do it," said Johnson.

Jaleel, along with his classmates, learn all of this and more through interactive lessons.

"These students are the next generation of pet owners."

They've made magnets that include lists of things that would guarantee happy and healthy lives for dogs. Also, during the holiday season, the students even created stockings and filled them with treats for area shelter dogs. They even made ornaments for the dogs' kennels, as well as cards for the potential dog owners.

However, while the main focus is dogs, it's not the only focus.

Guest speakers give the students an overall picture of animal welfare.

"Today, we are talking about livestock animals and how much cruelty exists in factory farming," said Schofield.

For Ring Dog Rescue, these are simply lessons on loving our neighbors as we do ourselves, whether our neighbors have two legs or four. And under the watchful eyes of Twinkie, the organization hopes these students remember and share these lessons for years to come.

"I would like to continue what we're doing. Continue having the kids think of dogs as more than what lives in the backyard and gets fed twice a day. And take that for the rest of their lives and raise their children with the same values," said Schofield.

In case you're wondering how "Cupcake's Classroom" got its name, the class is named after one of Ring Dog Rescue's first rescue dogs.

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