For the Love of Dogs: Employ Participants Overcome Challenges, Raise Funds

Growing up on his grandfather’s Westside ranch, Cyprian Louis was more accustomed to the movements of horses and the family’s 12 blue heelers than the small talk of strangers. But he wasn’t just shy around people. He also had anxiety, and as a young adult trying to secure—and keep—a job, Cyprian struggled.

“I was really shy and reserved,” says Cyprian. So shy his answers were rarely more than one word long, and usually spoken looking down. He tried a few employment support workshops before landing at EMPLOY! three-and-a-half years ago.

EMPLOY! is a 10-week employability skills training program for youth providing paid training to improve interview and communication skills with the support of a job coach to find employment.

“The program really got me out of my shell.”

Cyprian’s job coach connected him with Wiggle Waggle Dog Hotel. He recalls how in the interview, owners Mary Zamniuk and Lyle Rauser made him feel so comfortable.

“They were so welcoming.”

Cyprian was hired. Over the next few weeks and months, Mary and Lyle encouraged Cyprian to step out of his comfort zone.

“Whether it was in the yard or on the computer, if it was something we thought he could do, we had him do it, and it stretched his boundaries,” says Lyle. “That helped him gain self-confidence.”

“Whether it was in the yard or on the computer, if it was something we thought he could do, we had him do it, and it stretched his boundaries,” says Lyle. “That helped him gain self-confidence.”

“When Cyprian came here, he was a different person,” says Lyle, recalling a younger Cyprian who would have preferred sticking with the dogs rather than talking to the owners at the end of the day, but he did it, and in time the owners came to appreciate and respect Louis.

“We’re proud of him.”

Cyprian has come a long way, and in addition to building communication skills, he’s built some special relationships.

“I love the dogs so much,” Cyprian says, as a pack of dogs paw at his legs for attention. He leans down to pet each one. “It’s not work to me. It’s like a second home.”

Over the years, several dogs have especially grown on him, including a four-year-old Bernese Mountain dog named Odin.

A FOUR-LEGGED GOFUNDME

Employ! youth employability participant Cyprian Louis initiated a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Odin.

After trying to jump over an air conditioner, Odin tore his cranial cruciate ligament and needed tibial plateau levelling osteotomy (TPLO) surgery—at a cost of $10,000 to do both legs so they’re even and he has full mobility.

When Cyprian found out, he offered to create a GoFundMe page to help raise the fee. Wiggle Waggle was in full support, putting up posters around town and a sandwich board outside their front door to raise awareness about Odin’s plight and how others could help.

After gaining some local media attention, the full amount was raised in just a few weeks.

“That was amazing. I didn’t think it would happen so quickly,” says Cyprian, moments after learning Odin had just come out of the surgery. “I hope he rests well and gets better quickly.”

A number of key people, including Cyprian, wanted to make this happen for Odin.

INSPRING A SOCIAL ENTREPRISE

When news about Odin and the GoFundMe reached back to the current group of EMPLOY! youth, it was clear that Odin would be the recipient for their social enterprise fundraiser.

As an ongoing exercise to help improve their service skills, participants sell pizza and ice cream to staff at Community Futures once an intake, and donate the profit to a local charity selected by the youth. Odin’s surgery would be the perfect cause.

“When we heard about it, we thought, ‘Yes, we are doing this,’” recalls April Fletcher, who is also working to overcome shyness and anxiety.

And so they did. That day, the group raised $150 to contribute to Odin’s surgery fund.

“It felt really good to be a part of that.”

April may soon have a chance to meet Odin.

ANOTHER DOG-LOVER WALKS IN

Youth Employ! participant April Fletcher

 

Just as Cyprian prepares to move on from Wiggle Waggle and pursue computer science studies, April has been hired to help out at the hotel.

Just a few weeks in and she’s got a favourite shepherd cross she loves to play with, and a whole host of things she can do.

“They have been great at helping me feel comfortable and boosting my confidence. There’s no babying around. It’s just, ‘Let’s do it,’ and I realize I can do it and it’s not as scary as I thought.”

In one of the grassy play areas outside, both April and Cyprian share another sentiment: “I couldn’t have done it without EMPLOY!”

Are you or someone you know a youth looking for opportunities to improve employability skills and receive paid training? Learn more about EMPLOY!

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