On August 24th, 2017 Margarita and I did a Virtual 5K race, Run for the Rescues, to help benefit dogs in need!
“I want to pet them! I love dogs!” the students said in chorus.
Robyn Klim, the district’s director of pupil services, asked the students to quiet down and gather in a circle as she led her dog, Lena, a 3-year-old Shih Tzu-Yorkie mix, to the center of the room. Following behind was Jen Beadling, a middle school teacher with her dog, Rita, a 7-year-old English pointer.
“Our goal of the program is to provide students with the support, encouragement and friendship of a nonjudgmental therapy dog,” Klim said. “Research shows that a relationship with a therapy dog allows students to be more successful in school and the community.”
The goal of having the dogs in the school is to help alleviate stress and help students focus, Klim said. For example, the dogs could come into the guided reading exercises and help students who are struggling with reading stay on task. The dogs have already visited one class where students were taking a test, Klim said, and they were allowed to pet the dogs to help stay calm and chase away any nerves.
The program began at the school earlier this month as a way to build skills and confidence for the students.
Each of the classes will get an introduction lesson, just like Newman’s class received Tuesday, before the dogs will be brought back for other activities. Klim said that Rita had already made her second trip back to a middle school class who had the opportunity to pet her while taking a test.
The plan is to continue to expand into next year, to allow all classrooms to sign up for about one visit a quarter. Teachers will be able to go into the “The Bark Room,” and sign up for a visit.
As the program expands, teachers can match their lessons to incorporate the dogs.
Both Klim and Beadling were getting their dogs trained as therapy dogs for different purposes when they started discussing it with each other.
“Wouldn’t this be awesome to do for our school district?” Klim said.
From there, Klim worked with Superintendent Christine Vespe to set up a board policy allowing the animals to visit during the day as well as secured insurance.
The dogs will be accompanied by Klim and Beadling at all times that they are in the school. Students who do not want to participate or parents who do not want their children to participate will have the opportunity to opt-out of the program, Klim said.
So far, however, Vespe said not one student in the district has opted out.
Excitement filled the room Tuesday as the students got to interact with the dogs and learn about them. Beadling told the students how she rescued Rita last year, while Klim discussed how she adopted Lena about two years ago.
“I love you Lena,” Keegan O’Brien, 7, said as the dogs were walking around the circle.
Still, he said Rita was his favorite dog that he had met.
“I really like Rita cause there’s a girl named Rita in Power Rangers,” he said with a smile.
For Klim and Beadling, seeing the students smiles and positive reactions has made the program worth it.
“I think it’s very exciting for the kids to have exposure to therapy dogs (and) learn about them,” Beadling said.
Klim said teachers are starting to use the dogs as a motivation tactic for the students.
“I think that (Lena) is motivating our students,” she said. “She’s providing positive rewards for our children.”
Those of you who have been following along know that Rita became a registered Therapy Dog. My school district decided to start a Therapy Dog program, and Rita was one of the first dogs starting the program!
My students were super-excited! They made welcome signs, and we marked the calendar for her first day of school!
Students created posters and centimeter cube formations to welcome Rita to our class:
Ready for her first day of school with her Paw Patrol backpack!
Rita did very well with the kids, and the students enjoyed having Rita by their side as they practiced multiplication facts.
Rita was quite exhausted after her first day with the students, and napped her way through my Prep period.
Rita’s first day was a success – what a great program this will be for the students!
On April 8, 2017, Margarita volunteered at the 2017 Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue “BoardWaddle,” held annually at the Ocean City, NJ, Boardwalk. Our friends over at Barking from the Bayou would have loved this event!
Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue is an all-volunteer non-profit group dedicated to finding forever homes for homeless Basset Hounds in the New Jersey, New York, and Eastern Pennsylvania Areas.
Each year the Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue hosts BoardWaddle in Ocean City, NJ. There is a fun “Doo Dah Parade,” with hundreds of Bassets waddling to the delight of the crowd.
After the adorable Bassets waddle down the Ocean City Boardwalk, everyone gathers at a picnic. Here owners and their dogs hang out with all the hounds, check out the arts and crafts show, other rescues, area shelters, and/or get something to eat at the food vendors. This is where Rita volunteered all day.
A highlight of the picnic is the awards. There are awards for the top-10 pledge-getters and, of course, awards to the winners of the basset games: Best Trick, Best Costume, Best Parade Float and many more.
Rita had a wonderful time volunteering as a donation dog for Pointer Rescue, Org with her fellow pointers, Lady and Mr. Spock, and friends, Grace and Jen!
On April 2, 2017, Rita attended the Wheaton Arts Paws for Arts to volunteer as a donation dog with her Fiance, the very handsome Mr. Spock, for Pointer Rescue, Org (PRO). All cash that Rita collected was donated directly to PRO.
The Paws for Arts event partnered with the Cumberland County SPCA for a free community event that brought pet owners and their dogs on site for a day of art and fun.
Highlights from the event included:
■ WheatonBarks Dog Show and Parade
■ Several Animal Rescue Groups in attendance
■ Obedience Demonstration
■ Pet Supplies, Treats, Clothing
■ Dog Activities such as Paw Prints, Bobbing for Tennis Balls, and Pumpkin Pie, Photo Booth
Rita got her paw print done and I was able to pick it up in June, after they fired it in the oven!
■ Search and Rescue Demonstrations
■ Agility Course
■ Animal Themed Glassmaking Demonstrations in the Glass Studio
■ Pet Themed Kids’ Hands-On Activities
Evesham Library offers a monthly “Wagging Tales” event where children come to the Library to read to Therapy Dogs. Margarita is now a part of this awesome program which aims to help children boost their confidence and increase their communication and literary skills while reading to a registered Therapy Dog.
We are very excited to be a part of this program!
Those of you following along may remember that Margarita and I took a Therapy Dog Workshop in preparation for taking our Therapy Dog test. I am proud to announce that Margarita and I passed the 4-part test to become a registered team with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs!
Margarita has already visited an assisted living home, a medical facility, and also participated in a local library’s children’s reading program!