Can dogs fight against bullying? A lot of kids find relief through Marshall's familiar story.
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Petfinder

You might be surprised about what you can find in a rescue dog. There are remarkable dogs up for adoption in shelters nationwide who just need to find a home. Here's the story of one of them.

Meet Marshall.


All images and GIFs via Marshall The Miracle Dog/YouTube.

Marshall once had a lot stacked against him.

He was one of over 60 animals rescued in 2010 on an episode of Animal Planet's "Confessions: Animal Hoarding."

Out of all the animals, Marshall was in the worst shape. He'd suffered injuries so bad that his medical team didn't think he was going to make it.

But he did. Little by little, Marshall recovered, even learning to walk on three legs after his broken limb had to be amputated.

Marshall 's owner (center) and the vet who saved him (right).


Marshall earned a nickname "Marshall the Miracle Dog."

"(Veterinarians) started calling him a miracle dog because he just persevered and wouldn't quit," said Cyndi Willenbrock, who adopted Marshall from the Humane Society of Missouri.

Realizing children could relate to Marshall inspired his owner to share his story.

Cyndi knew Marshall's journey to overcome his troubled past could resonate with kids who struggled with problems in their own lives. She wrote a children's book about Marshall and used it as a way to talk to kids about courage and acceptance.

She turned this into a larger campaign, called "The Marshall Movement":

"The Marshall Movement serves to carry a universal message of acceptance, tolerance, and kindness. Our goal is to help children recognize, prevent, and speak up when experiencing or witnessing tough social issues such as bullying, peer pressure, abuse, or animal cruelty. The Marshall Movement, with the use of thought-provoking character building programs and activities, strives to provide children with the strength and path to find their own voice. We inspire them to be empowered."

Marshall was also trained as a therapy dog, making it easier to take him into schools to share his story. The training also helped Marshall cope with the anxiety left over from his trauma, and brought him into contact with lots of people looking to give him as much healing love and attention as he wanted to give them.

Marshall hard at work as a therapy dog.

Cyndi also encourages kids to volunteer with animals, or elsewhere, to help them cope with personal problems. In an interview with The Daily Republic, she put it like this:

"I always tell people if they're going through tough times to go volunteer. It's the same thing with animals," says Cyndi. "Having him trained as a therapy dog gave him confidence and exposed him to people in a really safe environment. It really showed him that he does have a purpose to serve. Everyone has a purpose and, more often than not, you find that while giving to others."

If that purpose is belly rubs, Marshall isn't complaining.

The pair now travels around the country to inspire children to be kind to one another and to "act with courage" to end bullying. They've visited more than 450 schools in 25 states and met more than 150,000 students.

Marshall's story is so compelling, it even inspired a Hollywood film about his life!

Hollywood caught wind of this amazing pup's journey and reached out to Cyndi and her husband about creating a film based on Marshall's journey. The movie released on November 16, 2014.

We need more Marshalls in the world.

Sadly, students live in a world that looks like this:

  • Nearly 1 in 3 students report being bullied during the school year
  • Students who experience bullying are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, and poor school adjustment
  • Students who bully others are at increased risk for substance use, academic problems, and violence later in adolescence and adulthood

But there are thousands of dogs that may be able to help.

Researchers have found that therapy dogs are great for providing emotional support, but also for teaching kids better ways to interact with one another.

Students can try out "pro-social" behaviors with them, learning to care for the dogs and receiving the dogs' love in return. Practicing commands that the dogs already know is also a great way to instill a sense of responsibility and accomplishment.

They can also help with pervasive issues like anxiety and social skills.

It would be awesome to see more rescued dogs like Marshall get the chance to give and receive the support they once never thought they'd have.

Could your very own Marshall be just a Petfinder search away? Considering adoption could not only save a precious pet's life, but could give untold benefits to you and your family... and maybe even the world — just like Marshall.

Indeed, who has saved whom?!


Watch this video to learn even more about Marshall and how his new life has helped him leave behind his past:

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

The Schmidt family's Halloween photoshoot has become an annual tradition.

Two of Patti Schmidt's three sons were already well into adulthood when her daughter Avery was born, and the third wasn't far behind them. Avery, now 5, has never had the pleasure of close-in-age sibling squabbles or gigglefests, since Larry, Patrick, and Gavin are 28, 26, and 22, respectively—but that doesn't mean they don't bond as a family.

According to People.com, Patti calls her sons home to Point Pleasant, New Jersey, every fall for a special Halloween photoshoot with Avery. And the results are nothing short of epic.

The Schmidt family started the tradition in 2017 with the boys dressing as the tinman, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion from "The Wizard of Oz." Avery, just a toddler at the time, was dressed as Dorothy, complete with adorable little ruby slippers.

The following year, the boys were Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, and Avery was (of course) Princess Leia.

In 2019, they did a "Game of Thrones" theme. ("My husband and I were binge-watching (Game of Thrones), and I thought the boys as dragons would be so funny," Schmidt told TODAY.)

In 2020, they went as Princess Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya, and Fezzik from "The Princess Bride."

Patti shared a video montage of each year's costume shoot—with accompanying soundtracks—on Instagram and TikTok. Watch:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."