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
Leashed dogs are likely to act more aggressively. Dogs, researchers ascertained, like to sniff other dogs, especially those of the opposite sex.
But here’s one fascinating finding that I think is worth much more research: Dogs being walked by men are four times more likely to threaten and bite other dogs.
That’s pretty stunning, and merits further investigation — into dog, into man, but even moreso into dogs’ abilities to read our emotions, better even, perhaps, than we can read our own.
The study, to be published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science, found that the sex of the owner had the biggest effect on whether or not a dog will threaten or bite another dog.
“We propose that the occurrence of threat and biting in dogs on a walk may have some connection with aggressive tendencies and/or impulsivity in people,” Petr Rezac and his team at Mendel University wrote.
They add: “Dogs are able to perceive subtle messages of threat emitted by another dog. Simultaneously, dogs are unusually skilled at reading human social and communicative behavior.”
Rezac is an associate professor in the Department of Animal Morphology, Physiology and Genetics. He and his colleagues studied close to 2,000 dog-dog interactions on owner-led walks held in the city of Brno, according to Discovery News.
What they observed the most, as you might expect, was sniffing and peeing. And most of the researchers’ conclusions are already known by anyone with a dog:
Males sniff females more often, males and females prefer play with each other than with members of their own sex, adult males mark the most, puppies play together more than twice as often as adults, dogs prefer to play with similarly sized individuals and dogs tend to be more aggressive when restrained by a leash.
(Scientists, meanwhile, according to my own observations, are prone to sniffing, scratching their heads and marking their turf. They don’t have time to play, and tend to be aggressive when their funding is threatened. They should almost always be leashed.)
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, in the process of trying to figure dogs out, man learned a thing or two about his own self?
I think much helpful-to-humans information is there, inside dogs, but it mostly goes untapped — because we speak different languages, because we don’t often look for it, and for reasons of focus. Scientists, like detectives building a case against a suspect, sometimes develop tunnel vision, to the extent that bigger, broader potential revelations, and sometimes ethics and boundaries, go ignored.
The Czech study, for example, leads me to wonder whether, in addition to studying the dogs, scientists might want to pay closer attention to those dog walkers, and all the baggage and pent-up hostilities they may be carrying around — whether they have those emotions on a leash, or too tight a leash, or no leash at all.
I don’t think it’s a Czech thing. And, in my experience, it’s not a gender thing. Generally, I’ve found that the most tightly wound pet owners — male or female — have the most unpredictable dogs.
Dogs, in large part, mirror their owners.
But their powers go far beyond mere reflection. Let’s go back to those pent-up hostilities. Sometimes they are undectable to psychiatrists. Sometimes they are undectable to the person they are pent-up in. Yet dogs have the power to sense them, and sometimes to calm them.
I’m not saying dogs know more than scientists — or am I? — only that dogs sense and know things we don’t. If only we could figure out a non-intrusive and polite way to ask the dogs to share with us all the things they have the power to sense — things that, even with all our scientific instruments, we humans can’t.
Maybe then — leashed or unleashed, male or female, dog or human — we could all just get along.
(Photo: By John Woestendiek)
(PS: The dogs pictured above were playing, not fighting)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 7th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggressive, animal behavior, animals, behavior, communication, conclusions, czech republic, dog, dog walking, dogs, females, findings, gender, hostile, humans, inside dogs, insights, leashed, leashes, males, mendel university, mirror, observation, peeing, perception, petr rezac, pets, playing, reading, reflect, reflection, research, science, scientists, sense, sensing, sex, sniffing, study, walker, walking
Do you, like me, receive an avalanche of reading recommendations from Amazon.com in your email?
The other day, I got the best one yet.
“John Woestendiek,” it starts out, “we have recommendations for you.”
It continues: “John Woestendiek, Are you looking for something in our Animal Care & Pets Books department? If so, you might be interested in these items.”
The first recommendation was “Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”
By John Woestendiek.
While I am thrilled to receive all their recommendations — based on their records of what I’ve bought and viewed — this one was highly special.
And while I didn’t order a copy, I did write back thanking them, telling them I’d already read it, and encouraging them to — based on the book’s awesomeness — recommend it to millions more of its customers.
While I feel pretty attuned to my dog – though nowhere near as attuned as he is to me – there have been times, lots of times, during our seven months of traveling that I’ve wondered what he really thinks of it all.
We’ve been on the go since the end of May, not staying anywhere, until our most recent stop, for longer than two or three days. More often, it has been a new Motel 6, or similarly priced lodgings, every night, followed by four, five or six hours of drive time, then landing in a new place, with new smells, which must be sniffed out and, of course, peed on.
By the time we’re done, in another week, we will have traveled over 22,000 miles, he will have peed on 31 states (and Canada) and we will have crossed the country twice in our red Jeep Liberty.
And he will have, hundreds of times, looked up at me with those big brown eyes, which are so highly expressive.
If only I knew what they were expressing.
The back of my Jeep, which once meant he was heading on an outing, has become — other than me, and dinner — one of the few constants in his life of late. It, more than any place, is home, and he still jumps in it excitedly.
During our four weeks of sitting still in Arizona, he still waits to jump in the car. Is it conditioning, or is he truly eager to go; and, if the latter, is it because he has come to love the road, or that he wants to finally get the hell home?
Is he enjoying the adventure, or, irony of ironies, does he find the Liberty confining?
While Ace seems to have adapted wonderfully to the new routine – or lack of one – and shows no visible signs of being unhappy, I still wonder if not being rooted, not having one place to call home, is bothering him.
Does he find being a vagabond liberating, as I – most of the time – do, or is he longing for a place of his own, an end to the travels, a return to the daily routine? Dogs do seem to love their routines.
His tail has remained curled most of the time, and that has always been the most obvious barometer of his mood.
But there are times I look at him, when he’s lying with his head on his paws that I wonder: Is he sad, is he depressed, or is he just lying with his head on his paws?
It’s important for me to know, because this trip, in more ways than one, is about him.
In addition to having nothing better to do, thinking it might be fun to travel across America, documenting our daily exploits and seeking out dog stories — to put together a “Travels With Charley” for modern times, only a more dog-centric version — this journey was also sparked by a feeling I was left with after writing my first book, “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”
After researching the often incredible lengths bereaved pet owners go to when their dogs get sick and die, including that most high tech length of all – cloning – it struck me, in what is likely neither a deep nor original thought, that we humans could, and should, do a better job of savoring our loved ones (of all species) while they’re still around. Maybe then, rather than prolonged and paralyzing grief, we could, knowing we had fully celebrated their lives, better accept their deaths.
I don’t really know if that would lessen the pain of a loved one’s departure. It could, for all I know, only make it worse. But that’s not the point. The point is we humans, as the song goes, “don’t know what we’ve got ‘til it’s gone,” that we take things for granted – not just unpaved paradises, but our parents, our planet, our friends and our dogs.
And while I’m as guilty as anybody on the parents and friends part, I resolved – after writing about how people go so far as to “stuff,” mummify and freeze dry their deceased pets, or pay $100,000 to produce a genetic replica through cloning – that Ace would be appreciated. In life.
That doesn’t mean spoiled and pampered — that’s entirely different. But I made a promise to myself to fully enjoy my dog — to, if it’s not too precious a word, treasure him (not that I didn’t already) — in our relatively brief time together. (Ace, who came into my life when he was 6 months old, is going on 7 years now, and being a big dog, will be lucky to reach the teens.)
I saw the trip, rightly or wrongly, as a way to do that – to take the time we shared beyond the routine of coming home from work, walking to the park, eating dinner and snuggling in front of the TV — though, again, for all I know, perhaps that was the life that Ace really preferred.
If, as I suspect, our dogs reflect our moods, then doing what makes me happiest, I reasoned, would make him happiest – especially given the fact that we’d be doing it together — and probably nothing makes me happier, other than Ace laying his head on my belly, than traveling, writing, seeing new things, and meeting new people.
So, even though finances didn’t really permit it, with an assist from my 401K and unemployment benefits, we set off on this journey, not being sure where it would lead, how long it might last, or what, other than some stories to share, it might result in.
At first, I planned for three months on the road. When that was done, we kept going, heading to the former home of John Steinbeck on Long Island and, on the same day he left 50 years earlier, starting again, roughly following the same route the author took in “Travels With Charley.” That took another three months.
Now, we’re preparing to head back east – we’re still not sure where home is, but Baltimore will do for now. We’ll be sticking to interstate highways to make better time. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this trip, it’s that schedules and itineraries – and particularly interstate highways — make traveling, at once, more stressful and boring. They snuff out any opportunities for spontaneity. You miss out on the character, and characters, America has to offer.
But as we “make good time,” I’ll be a little less stressed about whether Ace is enjoying the ride.
Despite all the time I pondered the questions; despite my long looks into his soulful brown eyes attempting to gauge his emotions; despite some one-sided conversations where I’ve attempted to explain things, with his only response being giving me his paw; despite priding myself on having some dog empathy, I’d been unable to figure out the answer to that question: Is Ace having fun?
So, last week, before I left Cave Creek, I sought a second opinion.
It was Ace’s second visit with an animal communicator – the first having come when I was researching a series I wrote for the Baltimore Sun about trying to uncover the past of my mysterious new dog, adopted from what used to be the city pound.
What was he, and where did he come from? For the answers then I turned to DNA testing (which showed him to be a Rottweiler-Chow-Akita), to legwork (walking the streets of the neighborhood where records showed he’d been picked up as a stray) and, finally, to an animal communicator. Perhaps the answers, I figured, could come straight from the source: Ace.
I’m neither a big believer, or for that matter a big disbeliever, in those that claim animals talk to them, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to listen – to them, or, if possible, to Ace.
Not long after parking myself in Cave Creek, Arizona, I visited For Goodness Sake, a thrift store that donates part of its profits to animal rescue organizations. At a weekend fund-raising event there, I entered a raffle for a session with a local animal communicator, and I won.
Last week, Ace and I sat down with Debbie Johnstone of Listen 2 Animals.
And according to her, Ace had lots to say.
(Tomorrow: Ace talks)
Posted by jwoestendiek December 28th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animal communicators, animals, arizona, behavior, cave creek, communicate, country, debbie johnstone, dog, dogs, dogs on the road, empathy, happiness, john steinbeck, liberating, liberty, listen 2 animals, miles, moods, pets, reading, road trip, routine, steinbeck, travel, traveling, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, travels with charley, trip, vagabond
Ace, after a bit of a hiatus, got back in the saddle as a Karma Dog yesterday at the Baltimore County Public Library’s Woodland branch.
Everyone agreed — as the wooden blocks attest — he was a sizeable canine.
Yesterday was the last of the season at the Woodland Library for HEARTS (Helping Encouraging All Readers to Succeed) — one of several Karma Dogs programs.
In it, children read to dogs, who because they don’t judge, criticize and correct, help students grow more confident in their reading skills.
A new round of summer reading programs start in June at the libraries in Towson and Pikesville, and in July in Whiteford
(Photo by Mary E. Isaacs)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 2nd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, baltimore county public library, dogs, hearts, karma dogs, libraries, library, ohmidog!, pets, pikesville, reading, reading to dogs, students, therapy dogs, towson, woodland
We’re happy to announce a new feature on ohmidog! — an entire section devoted to dog books.
“Good Dog Reads” — you can find a tab for it on our rightside rail — is a collection of dog book news and reviews from our archives, one that will be updated as new releases come our way.
We’ve also made it easy, should you be inclined to buy one of those we’ve featured, to click on the title or cover, which will take you to our Amazon Affiliate store for easy ordering. To go straight to the store, basically a compilation of some our favorite dogs books, old and new, you can click on “Books on Dogs” link – the photo of the bespectacled dog — on our rightside rail.
If you, like me, plan to curl up with a good dog and a good dog book (or five, or ten) this winter, we’ve got some suggestions for you. Please feel free to send us your’s. And remember the words of Groucho Marx — from whose famous quote the title of the book we’re featuring today was drawn:
”Outside of a book, a dog is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark too read.”
Posted by jwoestendiek November 8th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: affiliate, amazon, authors, books, books about dogs, books on dogs, dog, dog books, dogs, feature, fiction, good dog reads, inside of a dog, literature, new, news, non-fiction, ohmidog!, publishers, publishing, reading, recommendations, recommended, reviews, writers
Fidos for Freedom, a non-profit organization that trains and provides service and hearing dogs is having its annual fund-raising walk on Saturday.
The Fall Stroll ‘n Roll starts Saturday at 9 a.m., and runs until noon, at Centennial Park in Ellicott City.
The event includes vendors, games, prizes, a bake sale, demonstrations, dog contests and the walk around the lake.
Fidos for Freedom, in addition to working with service and therapy dogs, also operates the DEAR (Dogs Educating and Assisting Readers) program.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 30th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: assistance, dogs, ellicott city, events, fall stroll 'n roll, fidos for freedom, fundraiser, hearing, lake, non-profit, organization, program, reading, service, therapy, walk
Since we brought you the dog who can read yesterday, we thought we’d continue today with the dog who can do math.
Reading, arithmetic … what does that leave? Oh yeah, writing. What’s that? You don’t think a dog can write?
Willow’s owner claims her dog can read — only three phrases, but still.
What do you think? Is the dog actually reading the words? Or is something else at play?
Posted by jwoestendiek October 10th, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, cards, commands, dog, dogs, learning, nbc, pets, read, reading, reads, skills, today show, tricks, video, willow, words
After a nearly year-long hiatus, Ace went back on duty as a Karma Dog over the weekend, attending the first HEARTS (Help Encourage All Readers to Succeed) session of the season at the Baltimore County Public Libary in Catonsville.
The program runs for the next eight Saturdays, and starts at 11 .a.m.
Nine books (three of them Curious Georges) were read to Ace, who – from the moment I put on his special Karma Dogs harness and bandana — seemed happy to get back in the program.
He was one of three dogs at the library Saturday morning. The program is aimed at helping children grow more confident about their reading skills. Dogs don’t judge or criticize young readers when they make mistakes, which can often unintentionally cause them to become discouraged readers. When a child is more confident, they can learn more easily and are able to increase their vocabulary and become better readers.
The sessions are aimed at children who can read or are learning to read, and are usually in grades 1-5. To get the most out of the program, Karma Dogs recommends that children attend a session weekly.
Karma Dogs is a non-profit organization that seeks to improve the lives of others through relationships with therapy dogs. Its various programs are aimed at improving literacy skills among elementary school students and working with children and adults with developmental disabilities to improve communication and socialization skills.
Karma Dogs was also in the news recently for its “Oath of Kindness” program, which was developed in response to the recent violence against animals in Baltimore. Children take an Oath of Kindness with a Karma Dog, where they promise to be kind, tell their friends to be kind and tell an adult if someone isn’t treating an animal properly.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 14th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, baltimore county public library, catonsville, children, dogs, encourage, hearts, help, karma, karma dogs, kindness, literacy, oath, readers, reading, therapy dogs