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These Life-Changing Experiences Are for the Dogs

by Janine Boylan on May 20, 2013

Amanda Mouisset, providing life-changing experiences for dogs

Amanda Mouisset
© Amanda Mouisset

Amanda Mouisset Takes the Lead

Amanda Mouisset’s life is filled with one life-changing experience after another.

Changing the lives of dogs, that is.

Mouisset didn’t plan to change so many dogs’ lives. She says it all started when she had a “project” dog that needed dog behavior training.

That, she explains, is why she started volunteering at the local SPCA animal shelter. That led to a full-time postion as a pet behavior specialist. And that led to many life-changing experiences.

One Life Turned Around

Amanda Mouisset, providing life-changing experiences for dogs

Good dog!
© Amanda Mouisset

Several years ago, when Michael Vick’s dog-fighting ring was dismantled, a number of the dogs came to the shelter where Mouisset works. She looked beyond their past and saw their potential. And she adopted one: Red.

That pit bull became Mouisset’s training partner. His life turned completely around. While he once was trained to be an attacker, Red’s new job was to provide a tranquil environment for aggressive dogs. He would sit quietly and calmly with the dogs so Mouisset could work with them to redirect their energy.

Oh, I see—seeing the potential in someone can change a life completely.

Sadly, Red became a victim of cancer. “Many people have said to me how lucky Red is that we adopted him but I have to disagree,” says Amanda. “We have been truly the lucky ones. He has brought so much joy and love into our lives that I can’t even begin to explain.”

Second Chances

Mouisset sees several dogs come to the shelter with behavior problems. She watches potential adopters pass by these out-of-control dogs.

So, several years ago, when a parent suggested a program to help at-risk youth train behavior-challenged dogs, Mouisset was just the one to head it up. They named the program “Take the Lead.”

Dogs lined up for a Take the Lead class, which provides life-changing experiences

Take the Lead participants line up for class.
© Amanda Mouisset

The five-week program currently includes about thirty students, who work in groups of five. Some groups are from the local middle school, some are foster children, and some are incarcerated youth.

Mouisset helps the students use effective dog training techniques. The students teach the dogs basic commands like “Sit”and “Stay.” Then they move on to teaching agility tricks.

Mouisset and the students talk about how important it is to see the positive and use praise as a reward when their dogs do the right thing.

Dog training during a Take the Lead class is a life-changing experience

Focused attention
© Amanda Mouisset

The fact that these dogs are ones that people tend to overlook resonates with the students—they say they feel the same way.

“It’s inspiring to see how working with the dogs transfers into all aspects of the kids’ lives,” says Mouisset. “The kids are learning that they don’t always have to be tough. You can definitely see the difference these dogs are making in their lives.”

Jolie before Take the Lead, which will be a life-changing experience

Jolie, before she participated in Take the Lead
© Amanda Mouisset

Jolie after Take the Lead, a life-changing experience

A much happier Jolie after Take the Lead
© Amanda Mouisset

At the end of the program, students proudly see their dogs graduate. They each write a letter to the person who will be adopting the dog to share what they have learned about one another.

And the once-overlooked dogs have such good manners now that they do get adopted.

Oh, I see—praising the positive in someone can change a life completely.

To the Rescue

Mouisset is so dedicated to helping dogs that she has even put herself in harm’s way in order to save several dogs’ lives.

When wildfires swept through the Big Sur forests, Mouisset was one of the team members who went into the midst of the danger to rescue stranded animals.

The team worked closely with the firefighters in a simple choreography: the fire department would confirm it was safe to go into a house, the team would rush in and gather the animals, and then the firefighters trained their hoses on the house to try to save it. Mouisset and the team were highly praised for helping over 400 animals during the month-long fire.

Then, this year, construction workers contacted the SPCA about a dog they spotted down a cliff.

When the animal rescue team, including Mouisset, arrived, they saw a small shape with scared eyes peering up at them. They quickly determined the only way to get the animal was to use ropes and rappel down.

Bonding during a Take the Lead class, which is a life-changing experience for dogs

© Amanda Mouisset

Mouisset donned climbing gear and was lowered to the frightened dog. Once she carefully secured him, the team pulled him up while she climbed to safety.

While the dog was thin and dehydrated at the time of the rescue, just two weeks later, he was adopted to a perfect home.

Because of her bravery, Mouisset is being honored by the Red Cross as their 2013 Animal Rescue Hero.

Oh, I see—a lot of bravery can change a life forever.

Whether it is through seeing the potential, praising the positive, or lending a helping hand, Amanda Mouisset sees one life-changing experience after another—lucky dogs, lucky people!

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