A team of golden retrievers has arrived in Newtown, Conn., to comfort those impacted by the recent school massacre.
About ten therapy dogs, part of a Lutheran Church Charities program, made the 800-mile journey from Chicago over the weekend, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“Dogs are non-judgmental. They are loving. They are accepting of anyone,” said Tim Hetzner, president of the Addison-based organization. “It creates the atmosphere for people to share.”
Their first stop Sunday was Christ the King Lutheran Church, where funerals for two of the slain children were being held this week.
The dogs are made available to residents who want to pet them while they talk or pray.
“You could tell which ones …were really struggling with their grief because they were quiet,” Hetzner said. “They would pet the dog, and they would just be quiet.”
Dogs in the program most commonly visit people in hospitals and nursing homes. Each has his or her own Facebook page, Twitter account or email address, allowing those they meet to stay in touch. You can find the list of dogs who made the trip on the Lutheran Charities website.
The program also has a Facebook page.
The comfort-dog initiative started in 2008 at Northern Illinois University when a group associated with the charity brought their dogs to campus after a gunman shot five students before taking his own life.
Since then it has grown to 60 dogs in six different states.
The program’s dogs have responded to other disasters, including Hurricane Sandy and the tornado that hit Joplin, Mo.
Hetzner said the dogs would be available to Sandy Hook Elementary School students for after-school activities.
(Photos: Lutheran Church Charities)
Posted by jwoestendiek December 18th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, calming, children, comfort, comfort dogs, disasters, dogs, effects, elementary school, grief, guns, impact, loss, lutheran church charities, massacre, newtown, pet, pets, pray, sandy hook, schoolchildren, schools, talk, therapy, therapy dogs, tim hetzner
Pirelli came into the world last year — bred to be a service dog, but born without one of his rear paws, apparently the result of the umbilical cord wrapping around it and cutting off circulation.
Despite that, he’d go on to serve — visiting schools to get across the message that appearances are meaningless and obstacles can be overcome
“I think the fact that he has a disability of his own is going to be incredible in teaching people that it’s irrelevant, that life is not about what your body can do. It’s about who you are on the inside not the outside, Jennifer Arnold, the founder of Canine Assistants in Alpharetta, Georgia, said at the time.
“I want Pirelli to go into schools and say when you judge whether or not you want someone to be your friend, don’t look at their bodies,” she told WWLP – 22 News. “That’s not where you need to look.”
Pirelli — named after a tire because “he needs a retread” — was outfitted with a temporary prosthetic and went on to spread some hope and inspiration.
Now, months later, it’s his turn to receive some: Through donations from those touched by his story, he’s getting a prosthetic foot — similar to the futuristic running blades worn by South African Olympian and double amputee Oscar Pistorius, NBC’s Today Show reported.
After earlier prosthetic devices proved less than perfect, the staff at Canine Assistants launched a fundraising campaign online, asking for donations to outfit Pirelli with a state-of-the-art carbon fiber paw.
While he is waiting for the surgery, Pirelli has been fitted with a plastic version of the carbon foot. The implantation of his permanent prosthesis will be done at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
The prosthesis — being built by Hangar Clinic, the company whose work in prosthetics helped inspire the recent film “Dolphin Tale” — will be implanted into his leg bone.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 13th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, canine assistants, carbon fiber, college of veterinary medicine, disabilities, dogs, georgia, golden, implant, jennifer arnold, leg, north carolina state university, oscar pistorius, paw, pets, pirelli, prosthetic, retriever, running blade, schools, service dogs
Last time we checked in on Ricochet, she was riding the waves, teaching the disabled to surf, and raising gobs of money for good causes in the process.
Now Surf Dog Ricochet, as she’s still known, is involved with a program that allows individuals with speech disabilities to communicate with their dogs by using an electronic voice, via an iPad.
Ricochet, who’s also a therapy dog, is shown here reacting to commands given from an iPad electronic voice through the TouchChat app without any cues from her handler.
The app allows people who have verbal disabilities as a result of Autism, Downs Syndrome, stroke, or other causes to communicate directly with a dog, giving them a sense of independence, self confidence and control.
Ricochet’s working with the Poway Unified School District Transition Program, through the therapy dog organizations she belongs to — Paws’itive Teams
Paws’itive Teams trains service dogs to assist mobility-limited persons in achieving greater independence and, through educational presentations and animal assisted therapy, enhances the lives of persons living in San Diego County.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 5th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, commands, communication, disabilities, dogs, electronic, ipad, obey, pawsitive teams, pets, poway, ricochet, schools, speech, surf dog, surf dog ricochet, therapy dogs, touchchat, video, voice
As I’ve also said, it wouldn’t hurt to put one, or two, or three, in every prison, every facility for the elderly, every homeless shelter, every domestic abuse shelter, and any other place — from institution to group home to halfway house – where there are people who have lost hope, never learned empathy, aren’t feeling loved, need some friendship or could otherwise benefit from the curative power of dogs.
Of course, things don’t happen that quickly, or on that kind of scale. Obstacles get in the way, like bureaucracies, and liability concerns and the erroneous belief that only trained therapy dogs can provide therapy.
Considering that, a Washington DC-based non-profit organization is thinking pretty big: Within the next five years, the Pet Care Trust hopes to reach a point where it has introduced 5 million children in 100,000 classrooms to pets and the benefits they provide.
The new goal for the teacher grant program comes after the much quicker-than-anticipated growth of the program in the last couple of years.
In the 2010-11 school year, the Pet Care Trust provided 3,200 Pets in the Classroom grants. With support from Petsmart and Petco, along with rebate grants supported by independent pet stores, the number of grants increased to more than 6,000 for the 2011-12 school year. In the next five years, the trust plans to have provided 30,000 grants enabling teachers to bring pets into the classroom.
The goal of the Pet Care Trust — its board is made up mostly of representatives from the pet products industry, we should point out — is to help promote public understanding of the value of companion animals, to enhance knowledge about companion animals through research and education, and to promote professionalism among members of the companion animal community.
Pet Care Trust executive director Steve King says the Pets in the Classroom program, established in 1990, is already halfway to the new goal.
“We have reached the half-way point to this goal far sooner than any of us thought possible. It really is a remarkable achievement thanks to the Board’s foresight and the support of so many pet retailers and suppliers.”
More than 500,000 elementary and middle school students having already been given the opportunity to interact with pets on a daily basis in their classroom. and with more than 6,800 grants issued since August 1, the total since the program’s inception has risen to 15,500.
At the beginning of 2012, the program — initially available only to pre-k through 6th grade teachers — expanded to include 7th and 8th grade classrooms,
The Pets in the Classroom program benefits students by teaching them responsible, long-term pet care at an early age and providing the psychological and developmental benefits associated with the human-animal bond.
Studies have shown that caring for pets has a positive effect on children, improving school attendance and teaching children responsibility, as well as encouraging nurturing and building self esteem.
To learn more about the Pets in the Classroom grant program, visit www.petsintheclassroom.org.
(Photo: Ace, though it was done without a grant, visits a Baltimore school)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 29th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, compassion, dogs, elementary, empathy, grants, junior high, pet care trust, petco, pets, pets in the classroom, petsmart, responsibility, schools, self esteem, students, teachers
Clifford, who has always been so much more than big, so much more than red, is now more than half a century old.
Clifford turned 50 Monday.
And he had a big red birthday party — many of them, in fact.
While his birthday was celebrated in schools across the country, the biggest shindig was in New York, where students sang happy birthday outside the headquarters of his publishing company and Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared it Clifford the Big Red Dog Day.
Clifford’s creator, Norman Bridwell, took questions from first- and second-graders during a webcast shown there and beamed live into more than 5,000 classrooms around the country.
Bridwell, 84, told the Associated Press, his initial plans were for Clifford to be as big as a horse; eventually, though, Clifford became bigger than a house. He ended up red because that’s the color of the jar of paint Bridwell had nearby.
“I don’t really understand it,” he said of Clifford’s enduring nature. “Whether it’s his color, or if it’s the fact that he’s clumsy, like a lot of kids are clumsy.”
Bridwell’s daughter, upon whom the character Emily in the books is based, told reporters her artist father and his wife, Norma, were struggling to earn a living in New York when Norma suggested he try his hand at illustrating children’s books. Norma came up with the name Clifford, too, based on an imaginary friend she had as a girl.
Bridwell’s daughter, now a teacher, was a one-year-old at the time.
Bridwell shopped his drawings around, meeting initially with rejection. Eventually, he and Clifford were welcomed at Scholastic, and the company provided Bridwell with “10 Big Ideas” around which to fashion the stories, including sharing, respect, believing in oneself and helping others.
Today, Clifford is part of elementary school curriculum, and more than 126 million copies of the 90 books about the big and big-hearted dog are in print in 13 languages, in addition to a TV show, plush toys, a magazine and, yes — who says old dogs can’t learn new tricks? – even a Clifford app.
(Photos: Courtesy of Scholastic)
Posted by jwoestendiek September 25th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 50, 50th, big, big red dog, birthday, books, books on dogs, bridwell, celebrate, children's books, clifford, curriculum, dog, dog books, elementary, good dog reads, lessons, norma, norman bridwell, red, schools, students, teachers
According to a university spokeswoman, the practice, which usually involves euthanizing the dogs after the surgeries, has existed since the vet school was created.
It will end this summer.
Based on an account in the Kansas City Star, the decision was based partly on “sensitivity,” partly on saving money.
“People perceive that surgeries being done on companion animals are worse than on other animals like swine,” said Mary Jo Banken, university spokeswoman. She also noted that using pigs is cheaper.
Other vet schools in the region, including Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said they do not use live dogs in training that ultimately leads to euthanizing the animals.
The dogs the university has purchased for surgeries were raised “specifically for this purpose,” Banken said. She said 117 dogs were put down after student-performed surgeries last school year.
Banken said the school has been trying to phase out the practice for nearly three years.
The dogs have been used so students can practice spaying, neutering and other surgeries. Third-year students in the school’s surgery and anesthesiology lab class, where the surgeries are done, are not forced to operate on live animals that they know will be killed afterward, Banken said. They have the option of using cadavers instead. But, she said, operating on live animals is “just more realistic.”
This year, the university partnered with the Central Missouri Humane Society to give students practice in spaying and neutering dogs and cats. Operations are done for free at the Humane Society in Columbia.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 11th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal welfare, animals, central missouri humane society, dogs, euthanasia, halted, health, laboratory, live, medicine, neuter, pets, phased out, pigs, practice, schools, sensitivity, spay, students, surgery, surgical, training, university of missouri, veterinarians, veterinary school
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
If the school district in Hudson, Wisconsin, has its way, an empty greyhound racing track could be turned into a school.
The school board approved an $8.25 million offer Monday to buy the St. Croix Meadows Greyhound Racing Park, but the purchase is contingent on voter approval.
District officials said Tuesday that the 130-acre property would be used to address long-term space needs for grades six to 12, according to the Pioneer Press.
It has not been determined whether it will be home to a high school or middle school, or what will happen to the building now standing there.
Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten said buying the property is a move toward reducing crowding at the middle and high schools.
The district has been in contact since 2009 with a representative from Miami-based Croixland Properties Ltd., the track’s owner. Initially, the sales price for the track was $20 million.
The dog track opened in 1991 and was losing as much as $7 million a year when it closed in 2001.
There was a plan to turn it into a casino, but that was opposed by Indian tribes in Minnesota and Wisconsin who already operate casinos near the Twin Cities.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 6th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, crowding, dogs, education, greyhound, hudson, pets, purchase, racing, referendum, school district, schools, st. croix meadows, tracks, wisconsin
Dog art — second-grader style — will be on display at Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter on Saturday, June 5, and then auctioned off to benefit the shelter.
The art was created by the second graders at Southwest Baltimore Charter School, who visited the shelter a few weeks ago and took photos of some of the adoptable pets.
After that they began working on their artworks of the dogs, using oil paints and watercolors.
All of the paintings will be up for auction at BARCS, and bidding will begin at 4 p.m., when the shelter normally closes.
On June 5, though, it will stay open an extra three hours for the exhibit, from 4 to 7 p.m.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 19th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, animals, art, auction, baltimore animal rescue & care shelter, barcs, bidding, children, dogs, fundraiser, fundraising, pets, schools, second graders, shelters, southwest baltimore charter school
My favorite part of this news report is not the beginning, which dredges up recent footage about dog attacks to establish the pit bull’s reputation as violent and unpredictable.
It’s not the part where they shatter that stereotype, or at least put a dent in it, it by noting that — gasp! — pit bulls are being used as therapy dogs.
My favorite part is near the end, where a student reading to a pit bull stumbles over a word, and the dog’s owner, Lydia Zaidman — her chin resting on the dog’s back — offers some assistance.
“NAYSAYERS,” she says. “Do you want to know what that means?”
“Yeah, what?” the student replies.
“That’s people who say you can’t do something.”
A lot of people would say you can’t trust a pit bull, much less put them to work with children as therapy dogs, but a program in north Austin’s Gullett Elementary School is going a long way toward proving them wrong, according to TV news report from KXAN in Austin.
It’s hardly — despite the report’s exclamation points — the first time pit bulls have served as therapy dogs. Across the country, pit bulls — even one of Michael Vick’s former dogs — have been certified as therapy dogs. The therapy dog group Ace and I work with, Karma Dogs, recently qualified its first pit bull member. Zaidman, who’s president of ” Love-A-Bull ,” a nonprofit group that sticks up for the pit bull, has been taking her pit bull Mocha to the school for two years now.
What is unusual is that Zaidman’s therapy dog organization, called the Pit Crew, trains only pit bulls for therapy work. It’s believed to be the only program in the nation that does so.
Working with professional dog trainer Julie Eskoff, Zaidman recently concluded a training program designed to certify pit bulls for use in schools. The training program started with nine animals. Seven graduated, but two were soon sent home — not an unusual dropout rate for therapy dog qualification.
“They love people; they’re extremely tolerant of people.” Zaidman said of pit bulls. “Of course, each individual one has to be temperament tested and each one is an individual like any other dog. But in general, they temperament test very high. They really love people; they like to be around people and so they do really well.”
“They are the number one most abused dog in this country,” Zaidman told KXAN. “Abuse is going to lead to a problem, no question. Unfortunately, there are a lot of irresponsible owners out there and that’s going to lead to a problem, but they have to use everything from amphetamines to abuse to get them to fight. So the idea that they are meant to fight is a falsity.
“Unfortunately, there’s a cycle right now,” she added. “There’s a media image, just like there was for Dobermans in the 80s or German shepherds in the 70s and it’s a cycle that just keeps happening. The more misinformation that gets out there, the more people that are attracted to the wrong dog. What we’re trying to do is put a positive image out there so that the wrong people don’t continue to be attracted to the dog.
“It’s like any other prejudice. You know, you have to educate yourself as to the facts. Unfortunately, too many people read things on the Internet and they don’t bother to find out what the truth is, you know, bother to actually meet one.”
Zaidman seems not only to have her facts right, and a well-articulated message (she’s a lawyer, after all), but she’s proving it daily through deeds.
If only people like Baltimore’s Mickey, and all the other naysayers, would listen.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 30th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, austin, breeds, dogs, elementary, gullett, image, love-a-bull, lydia zaidman, mickey cucchiella, perception, pets, pit bull, pit crew, pitbull, pitbulls, reputation, schools, stereotype, stereotypes, temperament, texas, therapy, therapy dogs