In addition to our one-time school visits, several years ago the Love Dog therapy program adopted one particular Las Vegas school to introduce an ongoing curriculum. At the Edith Garehime Elementary School, the Love Dogs visit every other week throughout the school year. Several dog teams teach the children about animal welfare, responsible pet ownership, therapy animals, dog training techniques and so much more. Half of the hour is spent teaching a lesson and the other half reading in small groups around a dog.
For four years we met with one class and this year we were thrilled to expand to include a second first grade class. The students love having “their” dogs in class and have learned so much. Each visit I am impressed with their eagerness to learn about animals and to read with the dogs.
Yesterday was our holiday visit and as you can imagine, the students were full of energy. Two more weeks until school break!
This week the room was abuzz with excitement. The dogs were calm as ever and settled into their spots on their blankets while I began the lesson. We discussed safety tips for your pets around the holidays. In addition to the foods and items I explained were unsafe for pets, a few students added some things we had not thought of. Such smart kids!
The children loved reading favorite holiday books and received holiday gifts from the dogs and they had gifts for us.
But the Love Dogs who participate at Garehime also attended several large events recently and were quite tired.
As we explained that the dogs had worked so much, they needed a rest, the children totally understood. They were especially gentle and calm around the dogs and respected their need to rest, and in Petey’s case, sleep!
What I noticed was as the dogs were in need of calmness and rest, so were the children. Their high level of excitement soon lowered as they knew the dogs needed quiet and peace, and they all wanted to make the dogs comfortable. As the children quieted down and softly petted a dog, the whole aura in the room changed.
Watching a child who moments ago had been crying and so anxious, settle down to have Benny crawl in his lap, was the greatest gift of all.
Thank you, Garehime, for welcoming the Love Dogs with open arms each year and realizing the power of the human-animal bond.