EPIC Pals relies on the human animal bond to create caring and confident kids. This program for local young people combines the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum along with a structured dog training component. The curriculum fosters empathy and empowers young people with skills needed to effectively communicate and manage emotions by focusing on lessons in five units: Achieving Awareness, Finding Feelings, Encouraging Empathy, Cultivating Cooperation and Dealing with decisions. Students who have been through classes where the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum has been used have demonstrated higher levels of empathy and pro social behaviors as well as increased problem solving abilities. The curriculum has also been linked to bullying prevention and increased parent involvement. In addition to benefiting from the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum, students will also have the opportunity to work under the direction of an accomplished dog trainer to help teach dogs from local shelters basic obedience skills. A growing number of adult correctional facilities and organizations working with troubled youth are recognizing the benefits of incorporating animals into treatment and other rehabilitative efforts. Many such groups are using dog training programs and have seen promising results including reduced recidivism, improvement in areas of respect for authority and social interaction and increased patience, responsibility, compassion and self-esteem. EPIC Pals builds on the success of such programs and helps local young people develop positive relationships with adults, be of service to the community and improve social and emotional skills while caring for, and being cared for by, a four legged friend. EPIC Pals is currently being offered to select groups on a referral only basis although we hope to make the program available to others soon. (For more information about similar training programs see http://doc.mo.gov/DAI/P4P.php , http://www.pawsitiveworks.com/ , http://www.pooch.org/ and http://www.champdogs.org/prison-program/prison-program ) Class sizes are small and dogs in the program are carefully selected by workers at local shelters. EPIC has been successful in placing dogs who are going through the EPIC Pals program in volunteer foster homes. Fosters play a critical part in this program by providing a home for the dogs while they are going through the program and also by helping to reinforce the training lessons the young people and the dogs work on in class. If you are interested in fostering an EPIC Pals dog in the future or if you are interested in adopting one of the dogs who have gone through the program, please contact us. Additionally, monetary donations and/or donations of leashes, collars, bowls or crates are always appreciated. Contact us at 573-587-1921 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. EPIC Pals is a great program but it wouldn’t be possible without help. Thanks to everyone who has helped make this project a success so far including: Missouri Foundation for Health, Missouri Division of Youth Services ECHO program, Cape Girardeau County Juvenile Office, ACT Missouri, Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary, Bollinger County Stray Project, Busch Pet Products, the EPIC Pals teacher, the EPIC Pals trainer, all of our dedicated volunteers including the EPIC Pals fosters and of course, all of the great kids and dogs who are participating in the program!