MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life
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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Reading Program Therapy Dogs Help Child Overcome Black Dog Fear

Maddie has been a therapy dog reading dog at Columbine Elementary in Boulder, CO for over 2 years.  She's part of a team of five Reading Therapy dogs who come to the school every Thursday for children from first to fifth grade to read to. It's a fun, joyous time. 

During that entire two years we have all watched Jackie, a young child terrified of dogs due to a bite, slowly warm up to the dogs one by one--except for Maddie. Why?  We learned that she was bit by a black dog, and my Maddie is black.

"Do you have her?" Jackie would ask me anxiously. She always made a wide circle when she passed Maddie and kept her eyes on my hand on the leash. But Jackie also watched Maddie with interest from a distance when she was reading with the other dogs. Maddie licked the faces of the other children, rolled over on her back to be rubbed, lay her head in the their laps,and never stopped wagging her tail. Jackie's face told me that she longed to be part of that, part of the joy that Maddie had to give.

I often ask Jackie if she wanted to come read to Maddie very briefly.  The answer was always "no."  Then a couple of weeks ago I noticed Jackie watching.  Again I asked her if she wanted to read to Maddie, and to my surprise she replied, "will you hold her leash really tight?"  Of course I told her I would and she walked over tentatively with her friend in tow for support. After reading a couple of lines she delighted and surprised all of us once again by asking, "will you hold her head?"

"Yes," I told her.  Jackie reached over and patted Maddie on the head.  We all broke into applause-- teacher and volunteers alike. It was a great day, a great milestone, and a great moment not only for Jackie, but for black dogs everywhere. It is well-known that "black dog syndrome"exists, where some people tend to fear black dogs for no reason and that black dogs are passed over in the shelter over other colors, again for no good reason.

Congratulations Jackie!

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