Or maybe an entire pack of them.
School districts being bureaucracies, though – often quicker to look for reasons why they can’t do something, rather than actually trying something new — that doesn’t happen too often.
But in Bucks County, Pa., dogs are turning up in more and more classrooms, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
At Holland Elementary School in Bucks County, a 140-pound Rhodesian ridgeback named Kicho shows up regularly as part of a reading program.
“Sometimes, I get jittery inside when I read, but not with Kicho,” 9-year-old Conner Weinberg said. “He’s very kind and calm. He’s my friend. I think of him as my own dog.”
Kicho is one of a several dogs that have become beloved classroom companions, in Council Rock, three other Bucks County school districts and a private school, according to the Inquirer report.
The program was founded five years ago by Wendi Huttner, a Bucks County trainer and breeder of Labrador retrievers, and Deborah Glessner, a retired Council Rock School District librarian. Their nonprofit organization, Nor’wester Readers, now fields 34 teams of dogs and handlers who make weekly visits to classrooms in the Council Rock, New Hope-Solebury, Pennsbury, and Bensalem districts and to the Center School in Abington.
The basic idea of the reading program — much like the one Ace took part in with Karma Dogs – is to give children “positive reinforcement; they get the affirmation of these big brown eyes, a wag of the tail, and a kiss on the cheek,” Huttner said. Children who may feel shy about reading in front of teachers or peers can open up to a dog.
“When you are reading to your teacher, your parent, your uncle, or your librarian, and you don’t know the right word or you mispronounce a word, you are corrected,” Huttner said. Dogs, however, “are not judgmental,” she said. “There is a child in just about every class that nobody else can reach, but a dog can. They have magic. . . . It’s a wonderful thing to see.”
At Council Rock’s Richboro Middle School, Jillian, a retriever (pictured above) and her handler, Nan Muska, visit children with severe cognitive deficits who are getting training to help them cope with daily living, along with some others who have multiple disabilities and are largely nonverbal.
“My students light up,” said Tim Qualli, the school’s multiple disabilities support teacher. “They really enjoy being with her.”
(Photo: Tom Gralish / Philadelphia Inquirer)
Posted by jwoestendiek April 4th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bensalem, bucks county, cognitive, council rock, dog, dogs, holland elementary school, kicho, learning, new hope, nor'wester readers, pennsbury, pennsylvania, pets, programs, reading, reading to dogs, rhodesian ridgeback, richboro middle school, school districts, schools, solebury, students, teaching, therapy, wendi huttner
Dr. Priya Punjabi told Phillyburbs.com that a large animal could scare or upset her patients — though the couple with the guide dog were the only ones in her Bensalem office when they arrived. The doctor also said she is afraid of dogs.
Lat week, Joseph Cichonski, 58, who is visually impaired, accompanied his wife to Punjabi’s office, where she was scheduled to receive a physical.
Cichonski said his guide dog, Hero, a golden retriever/Lab mix, was lying calmly at his feet in the waiting room when the doctor approached and told him pets weren’t allowed in the office.
“We simply asked him to step outside,” the doctor explained later. “I have my rights and my phobias, too.”
“I told her that it’s not a pet, it’s a guide dog, but she still said I couldn’t have him in there,” Cichonski said.
Cichonski said he and Hero stepped outside the office because he didn’t want to cause a scene. His wife, who was told she wouldn’t be treated while the dog was in the office, also left.
The Cichonskis called police, who interviewed the parties involved and filed a report. Cichonski said Wednesday that he’s exploring his options.
“I’m not trying to cause a fuss,” he said. “I just want to let people know that things like this are happening and I’d like to prevent them from happening to other people with disabilities.”
Rocco Iaculla, an attorney with the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania, said the doctor’s actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“You cannot exclude service animals except in very specific situations,” he said. “Unless the animal is out of control or not housebroken or someone nearby has a severe allergic reaction, you must permit them in any area that the public is permitted. It has to be more than someone feeling uncomfortable with an animal present.”
(Photo: Kim Weimer / Phillyburbs.com)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 11th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: americans with disabilities act, animals, bensalem, bucks county, denied, disabilities, disability rights network, doctor, dogs, fear, guide dogs, hero, joseph cichonski, pets, police, priya punjabi, report, service dogs