SANFORD, Fla. -- Seminole County Animals Services is matching high school students with its shelter dogs for a program called “BFF 100.”

  • 'BFF 100' allows high school students to train shelter dogs
  • Program aims to train dogs, giving them better chance at adoption
  • SHELTER LINKS: Website, Facebook page

The shelter’s program manager says the program, which took off earlier this year, is helping find good homes for many of its animals.

Cecilia Diaz has spent several weeks training Chica, a dog that was dropped off at the county’s shelter by its previous owner.

“You just have to be patient with her,” said Cecilia, a student at Lake Brantley High School.

Diaz admits it’s been difficult to train Chica.

“It’s just like another person in the family and a lot of work, and you don’t realize how much it is until you’ve done it,” Diaz said.

Students like Cecilia get 100 hours of community service credit toward the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship program.

Cecilia’s mom admits she’s always thought shelter dogs were just strays off the street that couldn’t become good pets.

She figured after the six-week program, both of her daughters would realize having a dog is just too much work.

“It was a great way to prove we tried to have a dog, and it didn’t work out,” said Betsy Diaz.

Therese Dickinson, a professional dog trainer and owner of Dogs Unlimited in Longwood, volunteers her expertise to help the students train the dogs.

At the end of six weeks, she gives the students a certificate to show they passed the training. Prospective families can then adopt the dogs. They have a much better chance of finding a good home thanks to the training.

“This whole program has exceeded our expectations,” said Diane Gagliano, Program Coordinator for Seminole County Animal Services.

“We had dogs we couldn’t even get to stand up in a kennel because they were so terrified and now they’re interacting with families.”

But Chica isn’t going anywhere -- the Diaz family is adopting her.

“I’m excited because it’s like we have another family member in the house,” Cecilia said.

“She just became a member of the family so quickly that at this point, we can’t give her up,” said Betsy Diaz.

“She’s gotten used to us so, it would be sad if we didn’t keep her, but I’m glad that we are,” Cecilia said.