Children’s Home Adopts a Rescue Dog to Teach Kids Responsibility

Newton at The Noyes Home for Children

Photo Courtesy of Noyes Home for Children/Facebook.com

Noyes Home for Children provides kids and teens a stable place to live and grow. Although the facility primarily serves the greater St. Joseph area in Missouri, kids from the surrounding counties come here when their families experience crises and struggles.

The state licenses Noyes Home for Children to house up to 44 kids at a time of any age. When they stay at the facility, they’re enrolled to attend classes through the St. Joseph School District. There is no charge for kids to stay there.

Unlike other facilities that treat severe behavioral problems or substance abuse issues, this place helps kids when their parents struggle. Some might be awaiting foster placement, while others are just there to be safe. All services are confidential, and therapists, counselors, and tutors are available to help. [[1]]

Noyes Was Initially Built to Be an Orphanage

Charles and Sarepta Noyes built a massive red-brick mansion in 1894 at 801 North Noyes Blvd. Since it first opened its doors, the structure has served as a place of shelter for area kids. Initially called the Home for Little Wanderers, it served as an orphanage and a safe haven.

Noyes had only one request when opening the facility: that no child ever be turned away, regardless of their parents' or families' ability to financially contribute.

The mansion would be a place where all children would be welcome.

Over the years, Noyes has evolved into a place that also helps parents. Case managers, social workers, and staff members offer assistance and guidance to help families start healing to get everyone back together under one roof.

The average age of a child at Noyes Home for Children is 7, but the facility allows kids up to the age of 18 to stay there, work with counselors, and start working on the next step of their lives.

Their latest resident is a little different. He’s got four paws instead of two hands and two feet.

Newt Is the Chief Happiness Officer at Noyes

Noyes home for children's CHO_ Newton the dog
Meet Newton! A sweet dog rescue who's become Noyes Home for Children's Chief Happiness Officer.
Courtesy of Noyes Home for Children/Facebook.com

Chelsea Howlett is the Executive Director of Noyes Home for Children. “I found myself going to our executive board and asking for something that I never considered asking for, and that was, ‘What do you guys think about getting the kids a dog?’” she said.

The board voted unanimously in favor of the idea. [[2]]

They didn’t want just any dog. It had to be one that came with a unique story, and they wanted to make sure they were bringing home a rescue.

That’s when Howlett ran into Newt, the French Bulldog. “I saw his sweet mug and told myself that he’s the one,” she said.

Newt is a special needs canine. He is deaf, which is why Noyes Home for Children thinks he was surrendered. The board and staff at the facility felt like the fellow didn’t have the best start in life, but they hoped that they could help to change that story.

If Newt can overcome difficulties, so could the kids in their care. Together, they could work on overcoming whatever challenges were in their way.

That led to Newt becoming the Chief Happiness Officer at Noyes Home for Children. His job is to teach the children the responsibilities of taking care of a pet there.

All Expenses Were Paid to Bring Newt to His New Home

“A local family donated the money for his adoption fee, and Nestle Purina donated his lifetime supply of food to care for him,” said Howlett.

That allows Newt to take his job seriously. Each day, he shows up to bring joy to everyone at the facility. There are times when he’ll even dress up in full formal apparel, including a nametag, to show that he is part of the team.

“Like any family, having Newt here is a lot of work. Most of the time, the children are excited to see him. When it comes to picking up his poop, it’s not so much fun. We have assigned chores, and the kids are all helping out.”

Research shows that the presence of a beloved pet helps a person to control their daily anxiety. A dog can help people regulate their emotional arousal and improve their overall mood. When a therapy canine is present, they can be trained to be attentive to a person’s needs while offering unconditional love. [[3]]

Newt is closer to a therapy dog than a service animal, even if it does have an important title at Noyes. His job is to respond and react to people and their environment while receiving guidance from the staff. This type of animal-assisted therapy is crucial for children who come from homes filled with conflict, uncertainty, or disorder. [[4]]

Research also shows that using therapy dogs during traumatic events can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Kids needing to leave their home, often through no fault of their own, certainly deal with difficult and painful emotions. Newt does a great job of helping them work through those issues. [[5]]

How can pets be so helpful in these challenging situations? It’s all part of the human-animal bond. Therapy dogs help to reduce cortisol levels while increasing an attachment response that triggers an oxytocin release. That hormone increases trust.

Dogs like Newt can also teach empathy, help kids develop social skills, and work on appropriate interpersonal skills.


[[1]] https://noyeshome.org/who-we-serve/; [[2]] https://www.kq2.com/news/noyes-home-for-children-shares-inspiring-story-of-canine-resident/article_ed20a86c-c0f1-11ec-af87-872a916a0fe2.html; [[3]] https://www.therapydogs.com/therapy-animals-offering-comfort-and-cheer-to-people/; [[4]] https://theconversation.com/therapy-dogs-can-help-reduce-student-stress-anxiety-and-improve-school-attendance-93073; [[5]] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3408111/