HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — At the Harris County Youth Services Center, these boys are making friends with a four-legged rescue named Sonny.

He's part of a program that uses rescue dogs to mend emotional wounds in juveniles brought in on minor offenses or who need crisis intervention.
“A lot of kids are in this situation because they've struck out against somebody else because they've been hurt,” Joy Southard, director of Healing Species of Texas, said. “We're not here to punish or even preach anything. We are there to give them tools to heal, so ultimately they can advocate for themselves"

Southard only uses rescue dogs in the classroom because their story can be inspiring.

“We want them to always know that their life is worthwhile. These dogs came from the streets. They had no worth whatsoever to the people around them. But they have great worth now. And we want these kids to understand their worth as well," she said.

Just four years ago, Sonny was a throw away barely surviving in southeast Houston. His life changed when a local nonprofit spent the day in his neighborhood.

“We were in Sunnyside, and we were filming cruelty against animals,” Tama Lundquist with Houston Petset said. “We saw a lot of cases and a lot of street dogs who'd been tortured, who'd died on the street, a lot without homes"

Lundquist spotted Sonny lifeless in a ditch. She couldn't leave him behind.

“I looked at him and he kind of sat up and looked at me and put his little paw up and i knew we'd be friends," she said. “He's the sweetest dog I’ve ever had.”

From a stray no one wanted to an example of how a little bit of love can heal.

“I think from Sonny they've learned happiness, they've learned how to let go, how to enjoy life,” Southard said. “He's a great pup to bring.”

“By the end of it they're talking, they're hugging him, they're feeding him, they're feeling something and that's what we want these boys to do,” she added.

Healing Species of Texas is always looking for dogs to enroll in their therapy program.

If you are the proud owner of a rescue dog, and you're interested in having them work with children in Harris or Montgomery County, tap here for more.