Molly Tamale: Ambassadog

Molly Tamale recently had the opportunity to do some community outreach taking part in one of the coolest programs I’ve had the honor of being involved in.  This past spring, Agape Animal Rescue partnered with a relatively new organization called The Crossroads Campus

The Crossroads Campus, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, was founded in Nashville in 2010 to save abandoned animals and transform the lives of disadvantaged people. Our mission is to offer hope and healing, provide jobs and job training, create a supportive residential community for at risk young adults, and find loving homes for abandoned animals by giving individuals who are at risk of poverty and homelessness the opportunity to care for homeless dogs and cats.

In a nutshell, their goal is to help people by helping animals.  Could it be more of a win-win??  Through training people how to train shelter and rescue dogs, the program participants gain confidence, marketable skills and a sense of purpose.  Meanwhile, the dogs become more attractive to potential adopters by getting training and socialization – valuable skills to have under their belt collar when searching for their Furever Home. 

Molly Tamale & Foster Momma

The program that we were involved with is called Caring Connections.  Launched in 2011, Caring Connections is a humane education and shelter-dog training program.  Volunteers take dogs into housing facilities for at-risk youth.  Over six spring Saturday afternoons, Molly Tamale and five other dogs visited the New Visions Youth Development Center, which is the only “hardware secure” facility for adolescent females in Tennessee.  The girls who stay here are 13 – 19 years old, and are basically on their last step before adult incarceration. 

This facility, and this program, are essentially their last chance.

Caring Connections volunteers pose outside the New Visions Youth Development Center.

Because it is a secure facility, we couldn’t bring our phones or cameras into the building, and I can’t share the names of the girls we worked with.  However, I can share a story about one girl who particularly bonded to Molly Tamale.  We’ll call her B.

B is a 15 year old girl who’s been through the ringer.  She didn’t open up a lot about what all she’d been through, but instead listened intently and wide-eyed as Foster Dad and I stood in front of the girls and introduced Molly Tamale and told her story.  We explained how Molly had been bounced around at least six times in her short three years on this earth.  We told them how she was shy, independent and cautious. and once she trusts you, is totally devoted. 

B never took her eyes off Molly Tamale, and when we broke into small groups, B made a beeline for us.  She sat down quietly about arms reach from Molly, and reached slowly and gently towards her, offering the back of her hand for Molly to sniff as the girls had been taught to do.  Molly accepted her hand, sniffed and gave it a little lick.  A smile broke out across B’s face and she said, “She likes me!”  As she reached her hand a little higher towards Molly’s head, Molly’s ears drooped ever-so-slightly and she lowered her head.  B froze and withdrew her hand.  “Someone hurt her once.”

My heart broke in two at that moment.  I don’t know if Molly Tamale has ever had an unloving hand on her in her life – I like the think she hasn’t.  But something in Molly’s behavior struck a chord in B.  I like to think that no one in this world wakes up one day and decides to be “bad” on their own.  The environment and people around us influence everything we do.  Whatever influence over B caused her to do whatever she did to land in New Visions…something hurt her once.

B and Molly Tamale were inseparable for the next five Saturdays.  B was the first of the girls who successfully got Molly to “down,” something even Foster Dad and I have trouble with sometimes.  At the end of the session, B wrote a letter to Molly Tamale’s future Furever Family.

Hi! My name is B__________.  I am a student at New Visions.  Molly was a dog that came with Laura to our doggy 101 sessions.  Molly is a very loving dog.  She is a little protective. She gets attached and she loves her parents. She is a really sweet & is willing to learn new tricks. She likes attention. She would be a good dog for a family. If you adopt her please take good care of her. Show her lots of love! She is a very dependent & smart dog.  Love her bunches. Best, B

I cannot say enough about the value of programs like Caring Connections and ones like it all over the country – especially the ones that work with youth.  Sometimes rather than confiding in a counselor, these kids find it much easier to relate to an animal who has been bounced around, mistreated or unwanted – because they may see themselves the same way.  They’re vulnerable and scared, yet they’re learning kindness and compassion towards animals.  They learn what it means to be a responsible pet owner, including the importance of spay/neuter, decreasing the chance of them being involved in animal cruelty and neglect in the future. They’re introduced to career opportunities in animal related fields, and teach them the skills they need to be successful these areas.

In my perfect world, ever correctional facility in the country would have a dog training program. Programs like Caring Connections, and programs like these:

Lee County Cell Dogs

CCI Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program

Dogs Trained by Prisoners Help the Disabled

Prison Based Dog Training Programs

The Crossroads Campus and their Caring Connections program are still in their infancy.  For more information on how you can get involved, contact their Executive Director Lisa Stetar lstetar [at] prodigy [dot] net.



Filed under Our Foster Journey

8 responses to “Molly Tamale: Ambassadog

  1. Thank you for sharing this post with us. What a wonderful program. I also watched the video below and shared on FB. It was a very emotional piece.


  2. What a great program! So happy to hear how Miss Molly got involved and did so well!


  3. Ohh…what a great program! I think it’s especially great because it does work with teens. Thanks for sharing!


    • I agree! They’re at such an impressionable time in their lives, a lot of them could come out of this facility and go one way or the other. You never know what’s going to “reach them.” It was so amazing watching them relate to the dogs. We weren’t able to help out with their summer session because of scheduling conflicts, but I’m hoping to go back in the fall!


  4. What a great program! I actually have just spotted a similar one close to our new home, and am hoping to get involved! I love the idea of teaching compassion and responsibility to kids in need all the while training shelter dogs which in turn makes them more adoptable! Yay for all! P.s. I still wish I cold adopt that little nugget, she seems so great 🙂


    • That’s so great! I just think these programs are so amazing, especially the ones that work with kids and teens. If we were able to get even one of them to look at dogs in a respectful and responsible way, then it was worth it!


  5. What a cool program! I would love to take Turk to a program like that since he started out his life “on the streets” and has had to overcome so much in his life. Way to go, Molly Tamale!


  6. I’d love to do something like this if there’s a similar program in NYC.


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