Sometimes I forget……

Sometimes I forget......

Yes, really, sometimes I forget the impact the dogs have and the changes they have been responsible for over the last couple of years. Today’s blog is all about one girl, who reminded me yesterday. I am not going to name her but she will know herself when she reads this.

Most of the students in our school are not wary of dogs but a few are. Much of the time, it is our EAL students who have come from countries where dogs are not often kept as pets. They are not really scared of the dogs, just not familiar with dogs, and need some exposure to become more comfortable. Once in a while, we have a student who is a bit scared, based on past experiences, but wants to push through that because the desire to be with the dogs is greater than the fear.

When this girl was in grade three, she came to me and shared that she was scared of dogs. I asked her if she wanted to work towards overcoming that. She did, very much!! So we started our work, gradually, at her pace. First, she started with coming around the dogs while they were still upstairs in the cages in the morning. When that was okay, she started coming to watch our daily training sessions every so often. By grade four, she was ready to get a little closer.

Although the daily dog training focus group is the grade five students, we start training our grade five leaders in the last part of grade four. This young lady is quite smart, listens well, and is kind to others and I was so sure she could be one of my grade five leaders, if we took our time. She spent the first part of grade four doing more watching, getting closer every time, and finally working beside me. THEN, it happened!!! She was ready to hold the treat in her hand. I was right there to encourage her and she did it! She was SO proud of herself and I was very proud of her. We continued to work and, by later that year, she was ready to start taking the amount of training required to lead.

Miraculous gains are an understatement!! The summer between grades four and five, she got her own puppy! She was so excited to tell me about her pup when she came to see our Dog Performance Show at Old Home Week that August. She showed me pictures. Her parents were equally thrilled.

So, now she in in grade five and is one of my best leaders. Her biggest hurdle this year has been to do some of the higher contact trick training with Kannon. Some of the tricks Kannon will do involves having her jump over your legs and over your back. She will also bounce off your belly and jump into your arms. Once again, desire overrides fear as this girl desperately wanted to learn these tricks so she could do her own dance routine with Kannon. She had seen other students perform the routines in talent shows and during assemblies and she wanted to do that too. That required working the high contact tricks but she was ready and we were all there to encourage her. If she got too scared, she would pass and try again later. Through backing and forthing, she has them all down now and she is working on her own dance routine that has a surprising amount of high contact moves. I am going to let her do a series of jumps to the hand that I haven’t let anyone else do so far but she is ready!

She will perform her routine for the school before the end of the year. She MIGHT even be confident enough to be a guest headliner at this year’s Old Home Week show??? One of the students guested one night last year in front of about 2000 people- and it was one of the best routines Kannon has ever done- following the directions nearly flawlessly. This student’s routine is really cool, lots of interesting ways to move that I had never considered, and it will be a sure hit at Old Home Week!

So, why blog this?? Because yesterday, she came to talk to me. She has a quiet way and will slide up beside you and wait. It was just us, there in the hall, near the end of the day, when she reminded me of her journey. I love those moments with my students- the quiet spaces are almost holy and what we shared will remain hers and mine only. Some say I am the gift giver, bringing the dogs every day. I am not- my students are the gift givers- they make the magic, every day. Thank you, you know who, for ending my week with that gift!


About ehhigginbotham

I am a special education/resource teacher in PEI's English Language School Board. I play flyball with Fast n FURious Flyball. I am a member of the PEI Ground Search and Rescue Team. I have a wide range of interests and like to keep busy- can you tell????
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3 Responses to Sometimes I forget……

  1. Annette says:

    This is awesome! I am hoping to get a pup this spring to eventually come to work with me. I am a resource teacher too. 🙂 What policies did you need to follow to make this happen? Any health and safety checks, etc? I would love to do this at my school.

    • Hi there, good to hear someone else wanting to do this. Where are you located? With my school, we didn’t really have any policies to worry about. The biggest thing is to be sure the students with dog allergies are not around the dogs. My dogs are all vet checked annually and all their shots are up to date. I would be happy to help you any way I can. It is not necessarily as easy as having dogs and bringing them in. I have over 15 years of dog experience with ownership, foster and rescue, and dog sports. If you are already an experienced dog person and know exactly what you are doing with training a dog, then it will be easy. How much dog experience do you have? and if you have lots, I apologize- it is hard to know that from your comment. And if you have none, do you have a good positive trainer willing to work with you?

  2. John Norton says:

    Hi Eileen, just read the article about your school program in the Halifax chronicle-Herald. Your dad sent me an email heads up about it and I’m so glad he did. I am so proud you’re my niece and soooo sensitive and smart. I know Nina and Poppy are beaming with pride and telling everyone up there that you’re their granddaughter. Awesome idea Eileen and one I do hope will be adopted by other teachers and schools. The benefits are priceless and helping all of us feel a little more love is a good thing. Kepp up the great work and inovation.

    Uncle John (Proud of you & pleased as punch)!!!

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