Margarita Makes the Front Page of The Burlington County Times!

SHAMONG — About 20 pairs of eyes widened and a few shouts of excitement rang out as two four-legged visitors took over Linda Newman’s first-grade class Tuesday at the Indian Mills Elementary School.

“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.

The two dogs were recently trained and certified as therapy dogs and were part of a new districtwide initiative to support student success. 

“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.”

Evesham Library’s Wagging Tales Program

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!

Rita Is Now a Registered Therapy Dog!

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!

Congratulations, Margarita!

A Merry Christmas for Molly

On Christmas Eve we were alerted by a friend about a “Puppy free to good home” post on Craiglist. These friends wanted to adopt this dog, so we contacted the owner, who was unaware of the dangers of posting his pup for free on Craigslist.  The owner was very appreciative for us explaining to him the dangers his family pet could have faced.  The owner was thankful knowing his pup would be going to a good home with a loving family who would care for the dog.  We headed out on Christmas Eve to pick up the dog, and transport her to her new family.  Now named Molly, this pup and her new family had a very Merry Christmas!

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Every year, millions of animals are posted on Craigslist “for sale” and/or “free to a good home.” Most of these animals end up in less than ideal situations. These poor Craigslist critters sometimes end up in labs as test animals,  used in illegal dog fighting rings, utilized as bait dogs, used by backyard breeders, etc.  These posts have contributed to the torture and death of thousands of animals.

Please help educate others about the dangers of Craigslist animal sales and re-homing posts.

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Merry Christmas, Molly!

Rescuing Rocco

Brian and I had just started to decorate for Christmas when we received a group email from one of the rescues we volunteer for.  A fellow German Shorthaired Pointer Rescue of NJ volunteer has a friend who runs Min Pins and More Rescue.  They had a dog who needed to be sprung from a shelter ASAP, and were looking for someone who was available to pull the dog and transport him to his foster.   The shelter where “Rocco” was is not far from us, so we dropped the decorations, and started on our way to the shelter!

Meeting Rocco:

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Rocco was quickly attached to Brian!

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Rocco was surrendered by his owner for being “untrainable.” (Don’t even get me started).  He mastered a “sit” before we even left the shelter grounds!

We let Rocco stretch his legs a bit, then headed on our way to drive him to his foster mom.

Freedom Selfie:

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Freedom Ride:

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Welcome to your new life, Rocco!

We received an update about Rocco just a few days later – he met his FURever family and was adopted!

Margarita and Mr. Spock Get Engaged at the Old Oar House, Millville, NJ

Each Thursday during June through October, The Old Oar House Irish Pub hosts a “Doggie Date Night, ” where dogs are welcomed to join you as you dine in their outdoor seating area.  A portion of the proceeds from your food bill goes to the Cumberland County SPCA. This particular Doggie Date Night was a very special (and rainy!) one… Margarita and her heart-throb and fellow English Pointer, Mr. Spock, helped out the Cumberland County SPCA, and got engaged!

Margarita got Mr. Spock some special engagement gifts!

 

And Mr. Spock had a good friend make Margarita the most perfect and beautiful engagement necklace!

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There were lots of party decorations and favors!

 All our 4-legged friends go dressed up for the PAWty!

file-jan-02-1-47-23-pmAnd lots of people and pups came to the PAWty even though it was raining – I bet you they came for this yummy homemade cake!

 

We’re Engaged!

Margarita showing off her new necklace:

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The happy couple enjoying some of their engagement cake together:

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What a fun night with good food, friends and pups! Best of all, we were able to help out the Cumberland County SPCA!

 

Margarita’s Therapy Dog Workshop: WonderDogs in Berlin, NJ

Brian and I think Margarita would make a great Therapy Dog, but we were unsure of the requirements, OR if Rita would truly make a good candidate for this type of work.

Last night we took her to a Therapy Dog workshop at WonderDogs in Berlin, NJ, where we have taken both Limoncello and Hooch for obedience training when they were young pups. (Click HERE to see Limoncello’s graduation from Puppy Head Start class at WonderDogs, click HERE to see Hooch’s graduation from Puppy Head Start class, and click HERE to see Hooch’s graduation from the Terrible Teens class at WonderDogs!)

Jenny and Rita getting ready to start the first activity at the Therapy Dog Workshop:

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Margarita lovers her “place” mat, and was a well-behaved, attentive student:

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The instructor, Judith Azaren, focused on a variety of skills, including:

  • Greeting/Disengaging on cue
  • Working calmly around other dogs
  • Handler engagement techniques
  • Moving exercises
  • Distraction work including dogs, people, wheelchair, walker, etc
  • Physical handling
  • Stress signals

We feel as though Margarita did very well for her first time being presented with the tasks that were covered in this workshop.

Margarita quickly learned to look at me to earn a reward when she discovers staged piles of treats on the floor.  Therapy dogs come across many items on a floor, such as medication/pills accidentally dropped on the floor.  It is imperative that the dogs look to the handler rather than ingest what they find:

Here is Margarita weaving past other dogs, and not engaging:

Rita practiced loose-leash walking:

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Margarita did well working around distractions such as crutches, wheel chairs, walkers, and a vacuum cleaner:

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Margarita picked up on the “touch” game very quickly!  Each time she touched my hand with her snout, she earned a treat.  That was a fun game for her!

Here she is working on “touch” while not engaging with other dogs as they walk by:

Working on “touch:”

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We have already contacted several Therapy Pet Registering organizations in order to start the process of Margarita’s evaluation and registration.  We are hoping that with some additional training and practice, we will be able to have Margarita certified as a Therapy Dog so that she can help provide affection and comfort to those in need!

Do you think  your dog or pet may be a good candidate for becoming a Therapy Dog?  Each organization has different requirements, so be sure to do your research.  Here are some of the most well-known for therapy pets (click on the names below to be directed to the organizations’ website):