Who Let The Therapy Dogs In?

Dogs Begin Love Affair with Millville Senior High School

An Idea Shared

When Dave Vorndran, MSHS Guidance Department Head, suggested to me in the Spring of 2013 that I should look into having the R.E.A.D. program in the library, I remembered taking my son, Will, to the Vineland Public Library for "Puppy Tales", as they were called back then. Dogs, who are specially trained to sit and listen to children read aloud to help improve confidence and reading skills, would cuddle next to Will while he read to them.

This school year, while working with a student, I thought again of the dogs and Dave's suggestion. So, a few phone calls, conversations, and emails later, I had two lovely dogs ready and willing to come to the high school to work with students on a small scale. Buddy, the Chihuahua, and Zoey, the Standard Poodle, work with Mrs. Phelan and Mr. Thomas' class of nine students. Morgan and Dentin , both Labrador Retrievers, visit with Mrs. Malone's class. Morgan and Dentin visit other schools in the district, including Rieck Avenue and Silver Run Elementary Schools and Lakeside Middle School.

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Zoey's First Visit

Zoey and her owner, JoAnne Steele, visited Ms. Phelan and Mr. Thomas' class. Zoey was so anxious to meet the students. They were able to work outside with Zoey. She played fetch with the ball, walked on the trails around the field, and she hung out with the kids, enjoying the lovely spring weather. Students feed Zoey treats when she retrieved the ball and they liked when Zoey did tricks, like walking in a circle, saying hello and good-bye, and bowing down. Zoey will return in April.
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Buddy's First Visit

Buddy, the Chihuahua, visited Ms. Phelan and Mr. Thomas' classroom. His handler and trainer, Danett Bolton, is the illustrator of two books, Buddy's Rainy Day and What's Wrong, Buddy? Danett's sister, JoDenise Muller, is the author of the books. The sisters talked to the class about how the books were made and how Buddy loves to dress up and share his travels around the world. Buddy flies wherever he goes. He is from Chihuahua, Mexico, but loves visiting Egypt. Students were able to hold Buddy and feed him treats.

What's This All About?

These dogs are therapy dogs. Morgan is also a service dog, helping her owner with picking up dropped items and other important jobs. Dentin was raised as a Seeing Eye Dog, but suffered from too many ear infections to be considered for the job. Zoey is a therapy dog, who visits hospitals, and now our school. Therapy dog Buddy comes to schools and other locations with his own books.

While the dogs visit the high school they will be spending time with students. This time may include walks outside, playing fetch, and just petting. Some days, students will read to the dogs, who do not judge when their human friends stutter over words, skip words, read slowly, or make mistakes. Practicing reading to dogs is fun and provides a calming effect that allows students to read better, under less stress.

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Morgan and Dentin's First Visit

Morgan, who belongs to Diane Trout, and Dentin, who belongs to Pat Hayes, are both Labrador Retrievers. Morgan and Dentin visited Ms. Malone's English class. Their owners talked to the class about what being a therapy dog means and discussed how the dogs are trained. Morgan, a female, did tricks for the students, like walking around her owner, shaking her paw with students, staying, and coming when commanded. The students were able to try out the commands with Morgan. Dentin, the male Retriever, has been trained as a Seeing Eye Dog, and was happy lying quietly on the floor, and visiting students at their desks. When Morgan and Dentin return to the classroom, students will be reading to the dogs for fluency practice.
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