New Lenox program uses therapy dogs to teach life lessons

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A program in New Lenox called Woodlawn C.A.T.S. is actually all about dogs. (WLS)

A program in New Lenox called Woodlawn C.A.T.S. is actually all about dogs.

C.A.T.S. stands for Canine Assisted Therapy Services. It combines training dogs and therapy for kids from some of the cities toughest neighborhoods.

Tony Gordon has been training dogs for 30 years, a skill he says got him out of street life.

"The arrests stopped. I had been gunned down, stabbed I had been going through the things a lot of young people go through in the inner city. It was the dog that was my vehicle out," Gordon said.

Gordon became a dog trainer and started his own successful business, but always made time to go back and tell his story.

Once a week for 10 weeks, Gordon gets together with up to 10 young men, sharing experiences that he knows well. Then he got the idea to bring in a dog for the discussion.

"I brought the dogs in with the anger management group once and we did some exercises so I tried it again and again and I was able to combine the two things that I love the most which is helping the young people and working with the dogs," Gordon said.

He calls it the "C.A.T.S." program, Canine Assisted Therapy Services, using dog training to teach real-life lessons.

Just like Gordon, Keimone Shields wants to use these skills as a way out.

"First time I got shot I was 7 years old...shot in the, shot in the mouth. I wore a retainer to fix my mouth for a long, long time. So I've been through a lot," Shields said. "This program took me from the alley, my corner and it put me in a different place, it took me out the corner and showed me people there for me. People love you."

Shields says this program is giving the foundation he needs to return to school and pursue his dream of making educational toys for children. Gordon says young men, like Shields , give him faith in a better tomorrow.

"Everybody is screaming about the violence in Chicago but what if, what if we all did something other than complain about it. What if we all did something whatever that something is," Gordon said.

For more information, visit www.woodlawncats.com.

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