Program - Pawsitive Works - November 8




Karen Schumacher – Founding Executive Director; Business Development

Rhonda Hamerslough – President; Research Coordinator



Karen Schumacher, Rhonda Hamerslough, Greg Johnson


Karen and Rhonda spoke to the mission of “Pawsitive Works” (PW), a 501 C 3 nonprofit organization that helps struggling youth identify and modify damaging behavior patterns through the care and training of shelter dogs.  “You gave us our start with this pilot program when you granted us $300”, said Karen.  When combined with other donations from the community, PW’s budget for the first year stood at $500.00.  Two of three youth graduated from the program in Boundary County.  Since then, the program has become successful in Bonner County (Sandpoint) and Kootenai County (Coeur d’Alene).  PW was introduced in Spokane, WA on November 14th and there is a vision for it to grow in other states because of the efforts to reduce the cost of juvenile justice and help youth become productive members of society.  Over the last three years, the PW’s budget has grown to more than $100,000.

Promotional materials and research both cite that PW benefits the youth and the dog.  The human-animal connection facilitates trust, empathy and empowerment.  Youth gain self-esteem and respect for the needs of others and an awareness of how they can contribute in positive ways to their own communities.  The program increases the adoption and retention rates of shelter dogs through community awareness and education.

The program usually entails a class held 3 times each week for an hour and a half over a period of five weeks.  The kids have homework and reading, but the most enjoyable part of the 5-week period is received from the dog.




Although the program started in Bonners Ferry and is headquartered in Bonners Ferry/Boundary County, the program has not been able to get dogs from the animal shelter.  Rationale put forward is related to incompatible missions of the two organizations, but perhaps more evident is the fact that the shelter feels that the cost of housing adoptable dogs for the 5-week period is a cost they do not want to bear.

Proposals to solve the issue were discussed.  “Pawsitve Works” in Boundary County has been assured that the animal shelter in Sandpoint would provide the dogs with no conditions.  Someone would need to house the animals locally and transport them to the classes for the 5-week period.  It was agreed that the PW organization will send Rotary a proposal concerning the specific problem for considering a possible solution to the impasse.   

More information about Pawsitive Works can be found at their website: