Oknooshoon Project

Sponsor Name
Name as you would like it to appear
REGION Yerevan
START DATE June 2017
END DATE July 2018


Nairi Krafian, a young Armenian-American Birthright volunteer is establishing a project called Oknooshoon in Armenia, which is literally a hybrid of the words help (oknoutyoun) and dog (shoun) in Armenian. As a pre-veterinary student who is passionate about both her homeland and animals, her goal is to improve the public perception, and in turn the quality of life, for rescued dogs in Armenia. Nairi has partnered with The Paros Foundation in order to introduce dog therapy in Yerevan, help provide education to improve the public perception of stray and rescued dogs and minimize their poor treatment.

Nairi will be in Armenia this summer for 11 weeks to introduce her Oknooshoon project. She will be collaborating with the Centaur Hippotherapy Center, where they train stray dogs as therapy animals, and the International Child Development Center (ICDC) and My Way socio-rehabilitation day care center, where they have programs for autistic youth. She hopes to create a sustainable animal therapy program for autistic children that will benefit the children, expose more of the Armenian community to animal therapy, and showcase the positive qualities of dogs to the human population. Furthermore, once the program has been refined, Nairi plans to also create a national standard for therapy animal certification, which will allow the practice of animal therapy to expand to other shelters. She will monitor the progress of her program though surveys given to the staff at both facilities, the parents of the children at ICDC, and the general public.

$5,300 is needed in order to fund this summer's program. Costs include handler training education, dog training supplies, memory devices, PR materials, transportation between facilities, communication between involved parties, preventative medical care for the dogs, and hygiene supplies.

The following is a timeline for the Oknooshoon project:

May 29-June 16, 2017: Visit ICDC and Centaur, assess the facilities, introduce the program to staff and parents (of children at ICDC), and determine what qualities of the dogs would be suitable and therapeutic to which children. Buy necessary supplies. Assess dogs at Centaur and refine their training to suit the program.

June 19-July 7, 2017: Continue training dogs and handlers as needed. Slowly integrate dogs into ICDC, with highly supervised visits and trials, assessing the effectiveness of interactions between certain dogs and children or groups of children. Create a weekly schedule of animal therapy at ICDC accordingly.

July 10-August 4, 2017: Implement animal therapy schedule, continuously assessing and refining the program to ensure its continued success when I leave.

Fall 2017-Spring 2018 (in Boston): Assess and improve the pilot program. Create the standardized criteria and process for therapy animal certification. Complete independent study on animal therapy through the Occupational Therapy department at Tufts University. Expand PR and do outreach to more potential target facilities in Armenia (i.e. hospitals, orphanages, universities, war veterans, etc.)

Summer-Fall 2018 (return to Armenia): Have Centaur dogs undergo the official certification process. Expand certification availability to all shelters and provide training sessions and certification tests for dogs and handlers at all locations.


Armenia lacks animal welfare advocacy and has a severe stray dog problem with longstanding social and economic roots, which perpetuates the negative stigma around stray dogs. The few existing shelters are saturated and often forced to adopt dogs overseas, which is a large financial burden. The goal of Oknooshoon is to incorporate dog therapy into the Armenian human healthcare system in order to improve the reputation of dogs and thus increase their adoption rate. There is also a very limited amount of easily accessible animal therapy for all people, including special needs children, for whom the benefits of animal therapy has been proven in many other countries. Oknoushoun will create a situation in which more people know about and have access to animal therapy.


The short term impact is to successfully implement a pilot project working to train dogs and handlers for animal therapy for the children at the ICDC and My Way.


The long term impact will be to give rescued dogs at shelters the opportunity to be tested and certified as therapy animals, and make animal therapy more popular and accessible for the Armenian population. This can increase the number of dog adoptions, help improve public perceptions of stray dogs and ultimately benefit people who utilize animal therapy.


  • Araxi, Nairi, Anoush & Knar Krafian (2017) - MA, USA
  • Ms. Alvart Badalian (2017) - MA , USA
  • Ms. Susan Higgins (2018) - MA , USA
  • Shamlian Family (2017) - PA, USA
  • Araxi, Nairi, Anoush & Knar Krafian (2017) - MA, USA
  • Dr. Gail Guzelian (2017) - MA, USA
  • Megerdichian Family (2017) - MA, USA
  • Mr. & Mrs. Bege & Kim Koroghlian (2017 ) - NJ, USA
  • Mr. & Mrs. Craig & Linda Avedikian (2017) - MA, USA
  • Mr. & Mrs. David & Nora Hackett (2017) - MA, USA
  • Mr. & Mrs. Dro & Lynn Kanayan (2017) - MA, USA
  • Mr. & Mrs. Michael & Susan Guzelian (2017) - MA, USA
  • Mr. & Mrs. Ralph & Roxanne Kourtjian (2017) - MI, USA
  • Mr. & Mrs. Steven & Shaghig Dadaian (2017 ) - CA, USA
  • Mr. & Mrs. Vartkes & Audrey Guzelian (2017 ) - MA, USA
  • Mr. Antranig Berberian (2017) - CT, USA
  • Mr. Hratch Manavian (2017) - Canada
  • Mr. John Calnan (2017 ) - MA, USA
  • Mr. Peter Palandjian (2017 ) - MA, USA
  • Mr. Roger Strauch (2017) - CA, USA
  • Mr. Tatoul Badalian (2017) - MA, USA
  • Mr. Vladimer Oganezov (2017) - United Kingdom
  • Ms. Alice Melnikoff (2017) - MA, USA
  • Ms. Alvart Babalian (2017) - MA, USA
  • Ms. Alvart Badalian (2017) - MA , USA
  • Ms. Araksia Keoroglian (2017) - MA, USA
  • Ms. Holly Muson (2017) - USA
  • Ms. Houri Ohanian (2017) - MA, USA
  • Ms. Judith Saryan (2017) - MA, USA
  • Ms. Leslie Aznoian (2017) - MA, USA
  • Ms. Leslie Aznoyan (2017) - MA, USA
  • Ms. Mary Anne Bonjuklian (2017) - USA
  • Ms. Rachel Kaprielian (2017) - MA, USA
  • Ms. Rose Banks (2017) - TX, USA
  • Ms. Sara Fraser (2017) - USA
  • Ms. Sharis Khachatourian – 6054 (2017) - USA
  • Ms. Sharistan Melkonian (2017 ) - MA , USA
  • Ms. Susan Higgins (2018) - MA , USA
  • Ms. Talish Aghababayan (2017 ) - MA, USA
  • Ms. Teny Abrahamian – 6056 (2017) - USA
  • Shamlian Family (2017) - PA, USA


All sponsors will be recognized on The Paros Foundation website and on all relevant press regarding this project. In addition, sponsors will also be included in an Oknooshoon e-newsletter in 2018.

updates: images & information

Sponsor Name
Name as you would like it to appear