Bonnie Bergin received the Use Your Life Award in January for her organization, Assistance Dog Institute. She is using her love of dogs to heal the hearts of troubled teens by showing them how to train dogs to help the physically challenged. In the past few months, Bonnie has used her award money to help more wayward teens stay in her program longer by giving them a job they can be proud of.
To find out how you can contact Assistance Dog Institute, click here.
A New Leash on Life
"We've been able to do some wonderfully exciting things here with the Angel Network money. We were able to purchase a van to transport our puppies, and we actually purchased equipment for a vet clinic. It is just fantastic to be able to treat our dogs here on site. We're also hiring the kids that are training the dogs in the morning to work here in the afternoon, and they are learning work skills." —Bonnie Bergin
Creating an Angel
"One of the great things is we're able to hire Angel. Angel is one of the very first kids that I worked with here at the Sierra Youth Center. I've just been astounded by him, yet I know statistically he's going to fail. We are doing everything we can to help him succeed because I can see in him, that given the opportunity, he will succeed." —Bonnie
"If it wasn't for this job and Bonnie's help, I think I would've been in jail right now. In this job what I've gained the most is self-respect, responsibility and just how to interact with different types of people. Working with the dogs every day helps me with my frustrations. I learn how to deal with my problems better and communicate with people like I communicate with the dogs. One of the dogs that I trained was recently placed with a really nice guy named Steve."—Angel
"One afternoon, my dad and I were watching the Oprah show. It happened to be about the dog institute right around the corner. Being a quadriplegic, I would say that Intel [the dog] has given me a sense of independence. Angel has a gift with dogs. He can train dogs, and they listen to him, and he's nice to 'em, and he's kind. I can't thank Angel enough." —Steve
"I think that what we're able to do with the Angel Network money for Angel himself is basically save his life." —Bonnie
Surprise from PetsMart
A large expense for Bonnie is feeding all of those dogs—the food bill alone is $1,000 a month. PetsMart wanted to commend Bonnie and her program for using dogs to help at-risk teens live better lives. The company is donating $50,000 worth of dog food and other pet supplies to the Assistance Dog Institute.
Published on June 25, 2001