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Pongo Helps Mercy Home Kids Cope with the Pandemic
Pongo makes me relax and makes me forget that there’s a pandemic going on.
As we all marked the one-year anniversary of the pandemic, so too did the kids of Mercy Home for Boys & Girls. Quarantines, virtual learning, civil unrest, and coronavirus anxiety brought added stress to the lives of our young people who already struggle to cope with their traumatic backgrounds of neglect and abuse.
But through our network of therapeutic care, our boys and girls have weathered the storm, thanks in part to Pongo, Mercy Home’s loveable facility dog who provides unconditional love and comfort wherever he goes.
Alexa, an 8th grader says she loves how Pongo creates a friendly, homey atmosphere. When Pongo visits, she loves to run around in the grass and play catch with him, followed by warm snuggles when they get tired.
“When he’s here, Pongo makes me relax and makes me forget that there’s a pandemic going on,” Alexa said. “He makes me feel very happy because I love dogs.”
But Alexa’s relationship with Pongo is more than just playtime and snuggles. She says she feels like she can be herself around Pongo.
“I feel like I can better express myself to Pongo in a way I can’t do with people,” she said. “I think it’s important to have animals around for that reason, especially dogs because they are so smart.”
Alexa says she communicates with Pongo and likes to ask him how he’s doing.
“When he wags his tail, that means he’s happy,” she said. “When he’s happy, I’m happy.”
But beyond her personal joy, Alexa likes seeing the joy that Pongo brings to others.
“All the girls I live with—they like to be around Pongo too,” she said. “He makes a lot of people very happy.”
Besides providing our kids unconditional love and a sense comfort throughout the pandemic, Pongo also helped our kids stay active. Whether it was walks to neighborhood parks, playing fetch in our soccer building, or chasing each other around the lawn, Pongo encouraged healthy lifestyles by keeping our kids’ energy levels up.
But it wasn’t all just fun and games. Pongo also helped our kids focus during virtual learning. Often times you might find one of our young people petting Pongo as they concentrated on homework or logged on to virtual lessons.
“Every time I see Pongo he’s calm, chill, and mellow. He basically makes me feel the same way,” said Mikal, an 8th grader who’s lived at Mercy Home for six months and loves playing with Pongo.
If there was an upside to the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, it’s that kids like Alexa and Mikal saw a lot more of Pongo, who reminded us all about the most important things in life.
“One thing we’ve been reminded of during the pandemic is the significance of basic things,” said Tom Gilardi, Vice President of Youth Programs and Pongo’s facilitator. “Slowing down has really emphasized the importance of great food, a good night’s sleep, relaxation, and reflection. And Pongo has been a real part of this simplicity. Finding joy is now more important than ever, and Pongo continues to bring joy and unconditional love to our kids.”