To see a video of Harris Middle School Students helping to ready MCAR animals for transport to New York, visit this story on the WLOS News webpage.
Photo credits: WLOS staff
To see a video and more photos of Ruby the Comfort Dog in action, visit this story on the WLOS News webpage.
MCAR Receives National Coverage of North Shore Animal League Transfer
National coverage of Mitchell County Animal Rescue's March 19, 2019 transfer of 4 dogs and 19 cats to New York via the North Shore Animal League, the world's largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization. Harris Middle School students, principal Michael Tountasakis, helped load the cats and dogs onto the North Shore transport van.
Video features a former MCAR rescue, Roxy, as well as Ruby the comfort dog and the Mutt-i-grees program at Harris Middle School,
Harris Middle School students get dogs, cats ready for life-saving journey to NYC
By Karen Wynne | Monday, November 19th 2018
Students from Harris Middle School gathered at the Mitchell County Animal Rescue bright and early Tuesday morning to get 19 cats and four dogs ready for their trip to New York City.
Saying 'goodbye' is never easy, especially when the distance is long and the chance of reuniting is slim.
"Have fun in New York," some of the students said to the cats and dogs.
"I've gotten attached through the time I've been here," Ian Burleson said.
Students like Burleson said it's easier to let these animals go onto a better life, knowing he can always come home to Ruby.
Ruby came to Harris Middle as part of the national school dog program through New York City-based Northshore Animal League America and it's Muttigrees program.
Tuesday, as the students helped load cats and dogs, principal Michael Tountasakis reflected on how Ruby, who was adopted from the Mitchell County animal shelter, has changed some of his most challenging students.
"The reduction of anxiety. The ability to move on with the day, even when things aren't going particularly well," the principal said. "Ruby has the amazing ability to connect with people, especially children."
Burleson, who is autistic, said Ruby has made him a better student.
"She's actually made me more calm at school, helped me with work. And, I feel like she's changed a lot about me," Burleson said.
Now, Burleson is a national ambassador with Muttigrees. The organization is working to strengthen it's partnership with Harris Middle and Mitchell County Animal Rescue, by taking cats and dogs to the largest no kill shelter in the country.
It's a huge relief for local animal shelter [office manager] Amber Lowery.
"We are emptying the cat room, so we are making room for spring litters. It's going to be able to help more cats this way, and we've got four dogs that just left to go to New York as well, so that means four empty kennels, so we can take more animals in off the streets," Lowery said. Workers with Northshore Animal League said the animals are going to arrive in New York sometime Wednesday afternoon. From there, they will be taken to a vet, then be put up for adoption with hopes that at least one of the four dogs will become a school dog.
Harris Middle School's comfort dog helps students
By Karen Wynne | Monday, November 19th 2018
MITCHELL COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) -- Ruby, a 6-month-old poodle mix, is the center of attention at Harris Middle School, as she walks the halls with Principal Michael Tountasakis.
Ruby became the official school dog after Tountasakis got the green light to incorporate the Mutt-i-grees program into his school.
The principal heard about Mutt-i-grees on a network news program.
"There was a school in Brooklyn, New York, that had a comfort dog. I made a phone call, and the rest is history," Tountasakis said.
The Mutt-i-grees program is a curriculum developed through Yale University and the Northshore Animal League. It'sdesigned to develop calm, confident and caring kids.
Tountasakis said Harris Middle is the first school in North Carolina to be a part of the program.
Ruby debuted at Harris on the first day of school.
Tountasakis, who said many of his students have troubled backgrounds, saw immediate results.
"We had a student come in, totally ramped up with anxiety, crying and just not ready to go back to class," Tountasakis remembered. "Just a few minutes with Ruby, that child completely changed."
Seventh-grader Ian Burleson, who is autistic, became a Mutt-i-grees National Ambassador, winning $500 for the school.
He said Ruby is helping him stay calm and improve his schoolwork.
"When I'm stressed, I won't do as much work and I'll put less effort into it," Burleson said.
Fellow student Kendra Ledford said Ruby is also helping her navigate her middle school years.
"I see myself change around her because it's easy to talk to an animal and be nice," Ledford said.
Ruby was adopted from the Mitchell County Animal Rescue.
"She's very cute," said Patricia Beam, who works at the animal rescue. "Of course, being in a foster home with other dogs, 24/7, she was well socialized."
When she's not at school, Ruby lives with administrative assistant Sandy Vaughn. Tountasakis encourages any schools interested in the Mutt-i-grees program to contact him.