Young girl hugging her pet dog

As most people with pets will tell you, the companionship of an animal can be life-changing.

For Kelsey, a youth living at Covenant House, her dog Sugar provides both comfort and purpose. Stress, anxiety and loud noises can trigger seizures in Kelsey. She also struggles with separation anxiety and has trouble being alone. Sugar is helping her manage these challenges.

“Sugar is a huge support and provides all-around comfort to Kelsey. They have a positive relationship to protect each other,” said Shenise, Kelsey’s youth worker at Covenant House.

Youth are responsible financially for providing care to their animals. Sugar has opened up Kelsey's opportunity to learn life skills, including managing and maintaining a schedule and caring for someone besides herself.

“When our young people are contemplating getting a support animal, we work closely with them to help reflect on their readiness for this undertaking. Companion animals can help youth learn responsibility and provide additional structure to their day,” said Covenant House occupational therapist Maya.

Today, Kelsey’s youth worker is helping her apply to Covenant House’s Cooking for Life program. She’s looking forward to gaining skills to prepare her for a job in the hospitality industry. She also wants to earn her General Education Development (GED) certificate and is working on finding permanent housing.

By providing quiet comfort and companionship, Sugar has provided Kelsey with an extra boost of support as she continues her journey to independence.