MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maddie Expands Her Therapy Dog Duties and Spreads Her Joy

Posted By Dawn Kairns, Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

 Many of you know our dog, Maddie, is a therapy dog at the County Juvenile Center where we visit the kids each week. A few weeks ago, Maddie and I tried something new. We made a therapy dog visit to my grandson's preschool. What fun this was! My husband,Tom, joined us on this one. They were having "career week," where parents came and talked to the kids about different jobs (have kids advanced since I was that age?) -- so I talked about what a volunteer is and types of animal-related volunteer jobs. And Maddie let them know all the different important jobs that dogs do for humans, like her current job as a therapy dog, service dogs, search and rescue dogs, etc.

We walked around the circle so all the children could meet and pet Maddie, except for those with allergies, who sat back from the circle so we wouldn't stop there. A great time was had by all of us! As we were leaving, one little girl said, "we had fun, did you?" Precious!

Maddie is expanding her therapeutic circle in other ways, too. In addition to her every day interaction with people she touches, who comment as they did with Maggie about how happy she is, we visited a children's reading program at Columbine Elementary School in Boulder last week. I'd never considered a reading program before as I thought Maddie was way too high energy for such a "sedentary" job. 

Well, she was a bit off the wall in my book, but the kids loved her and so did the teachers. I credit Lisa, the special education teacher and program initiator, and her relaxed, fun, flexible attitude with seeing Maddie as very workable.

"Can we read with you?", asked two of the children hopefully as soon as we walked into the room. Of course, they wanted to read with the new dog in class!

There were 3 dog/handler teams that day for the children to read to. The kids came over in pairs and each one read a page to Maddie and me. After 10 minutes, each pair switched and moved on to another therapy dog/guardian team.

"Can she come lay in the middle of us," asked one child when Maddie was lying on one side of me. I love that young children will just ask for what they want!

"I'm afraid of dogs," Eileen calmly smiled at me as Maddie placed her head on her lap while she read. I never would have read it in her body language. I moved Maddie to a more comfortable distance for her. "I like them here, just not too close to me," she said. Once again, refreshing honesty! I learned that before the reading program began Eileen was terrified of dogs. What a long way she has come!

"Can we have a card?" asked the children each time a pair finished reading with us. Lisa saw my puzzled look and showed me the cards with the other dog's photos, birthdays, and "Paws to Listen" written on the card. A canine business card! She explained to the kids that this was my first day and I didn't have a card yet.

"We'd love to have you both. She did great!" smiled Lisa. "We really need dogs for the program.

"I love her energy!" said one of the other teachers. "I hope you come back."

 "J.J. was off the wall when he first started," his handler/guardian told me. "Maddie did fine!"

Needless to say, we felt so welcome and it was a joyous atmosphere. Oh yes, we'll be back! Today, in fact. We are going to finish out this school year as a reading program therapy dog team, which is part of Longmont Humane Society's Paws to Listen Program.

(All photos are from our visit to my grandson's preschool, and not from Columbine Elementary's Paws to Listen Reading Program).


Frankie, the Walk 'N Roll Dog said...

So absolutely wonderful what you and Maddie are doing! I applaud you, and Frankie the Walk 'N Roll Dog appaws you both! BRAVO!! So proud of you both!

Dawn Kairns, Author of "MAGGIE" said...

We are only taking after you and Frankie!