Thursday, May 8, 2014

Nicki Goes To School

Nicki went to school yesterday! Not obedience school, although she's done that too. This time, Nicki went to visit the kids and staff at our local middle/high school.

I had been talking with one of the TAs at the school one day while we shared lunch monitoring duty. We're both dog lovers, and we got to chatting about our dogs. (Don't worry; we were keeping an eye on the kids too!) She suggested at one point that I bring Nicki to school near the end of the day so she could meet Nicki. Well, that sounded great, but I was skeptical. Could I really just bring my dog to school? So I asked the principal. I got a resounding Yes! "We're dog lovers!" she said. Wow!

So I resolved to bring Nicki in near the end of the following day. I was pretty sure things would go well. Nicki is only reactive with other dogs, and I know enough to watch the kids for behaviors that might trigger unpleasant dog reactions.

That next day, as we busied ourselves along, a number of folks asked me about Nicki and whether I was bringing her in. What a nice feeling it was to be so welcome! As a few folks sat at lunch in a conference room, one called out to me "We're waiting for the dog!" Someone else chimed in in agreement. Okay!

As the day drew to a close, I wrapped up my chores. There were a few, inconsequential tasks left. I was told to leave those and go get Nicki. I didn't have to be told twice!

Nicki came bouncing into the school on her leash and harness. I brought approved treats (so nobody was tempted to share lunches or people-treats) and my camera. As we jogged through the halls, kids called out and smiled. When we got to the middle school office, Nicki was greeted by one of the teachers, our middle school coordinator, Mr. West, and our secretary, Mrs. Maddafferi. So many new friends! Everyone got down on the floor with Nicki! It was wonderful to see. She behaved herself very well. She was a bit hesitant with the gentlemen, as usual. But we have some tremendously kind and understanding folks at our school, and they were gentle and patient with her. Nicki warmed to them. The treats didn't hurt!

Mr. West meets Nicki
Nicki and Mrs. Madafferi
Then we got to have some real fun. We visited Mrs. Pratt's room. She had asked us to stop by. Here, Nicki was in heaven. The kids, her special love, were just enamored of her. They got right down and began petting and talking to Nicki. And Nicki just drank it in, giving back some furry love. This was a particularly sweet moment. Mrs. Pratt is a Special Education teacher. Her students have challenges that make a school day, and sometimes even just a regular day, a bit more difficult. They can feel frustrated, or disappointed, or angry, or left out, or all of the above. While all kids go through that to an extent, challenged students deal with it more often, and to a greater degree. It's tough being a kid with a challenge. And it's tough being a great dog that nobody bothers to understand. Or that gets neglected. Or even worse, abused. But dogs do an amazing thing. They never seem to develop a hole in their hearts, even if they're neglected or abused. They always seem to have more than enough love to share. Especially with people who need to fill a hole of their own. Or even if they just need to be "topped up" to make sure they have a full heart.

When we got back to the office, there were a couple of students there who had been talking with the counselor. The kids asked if Nicki was a therapy dog. I said no, because she hasn't been through a formal program of any kind - yet. But then I corrected myself and told them "Actually, ALL dogs are therapy dogs." I've never known one that wasn't.

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