When I was a senior in high school, my plans were to go to college and become a teacher. After four years at a reputable teacher’s college, I received my diploma and started teaching. Years later, after getting married and having a baby, I decided to become a stay at home Mom. Four kids later, I found myself at home with my dogs and all my kids in school. I got my feet back into the “teaching” water by subbing and even tutoring in our school, yet I was still unhappy.
Because my kids were in school, I devoted time to training my dog. Training my dog was more than just your basic obedience class- we took specialized classes to become a therapy dog team. After a few years of training classes and working hard, we passed the grueling “Pet Partners Exam” and became a Pet Partner’s Therapy Team. Bella (my dog) and I were free to start volunteering in our community. Weekly, we work in a memory care/senior living facility and we also spend time with students at our local school.
People often ask me, “What does the dog do at school?” Here is just one (of many) examples of how she is helping students learn. This student works with Bella on a weekly basis with her reading. Bella trots down to her classroom and escorts her to the guidance office where their work is completed. Here is the picture that I took last week as they were working.
To most people, it seems silly that the student would be reading her story to a dog.
Here is the actual science of what is happening.
- The student gets extra practice reading her story in a FUN way!
- By touching the dog, her heart rate and breathing are going down, as well as her blood pressure!
- By touching the dog, her stress and anxiety are being transferred to the dog, so her anxiety about reading is lessened.
- The dog only listens, she doesn’t correct, and reading is a positive experience! The reader will get a big smooch from the dog to say “thank you” for reading the story.
- Guess what? She wants to come back the next week to read to Bella!
The beautiful thing about this is that my education as a teacher was focused on READING and language arts. If the reader needs help with decoding a word, I know how to help! Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be using my teaching degree in such an amazing way!!