Monday, August 8, 2016

When a Visit is Good A few weeks ago I posted about a session that didn’t go too well. This week I’d like to write about a session that went exceptionally well. This session took place at Garnet Valley High School in Glen Mills PA. This was our first visit at this school. We had an opportunity to meet with a group of special needs students. Our group consisted of two dogs and a rabbit and there were close to 50 students present. The school was well prepared and staffed with about 20 aides/teachers. After our initials introduction we split up into three smaller groups. We met in an auditorium and most of the kids sat on the floor so I chose to get on the floor with them. The purpose was twofold. I have more control of Maggie (if needed) and it brings me down to the same level as the kids. I didn’t want them to feel this was a classroom setting. There were a few kids in wheelchairs so naturally I got up when speaking with those kids. I really enjoyed this session as I felt the teachers/aides were constantly trying to engage and encourage each kid to participate in the program and ask questions as well. Some of the kids expressed fear and chose not to approach the animals so an aide stayed back with them. Again I felt this was a wise choice- so that child would feel secure and not left out. I told the group what a typical day is for Maggie, what she eats (only dog food as Goldendoodles have sensitive stomachs so it is a good idea to keep them on the same food every day), what her favorite activity is (chasing squirrels), and what kind of exercise she requires (a walk in the morning and a walk in the evening). I then got to hear stories about their pets, their names, ages and what tricks they know. I find kids begin to open up the longer they sit with Maggie. Some of the kids choose to pet her and others prefer to just be near her. Maggie can sense what each individual needs and tolerates both. Her favorite places to be petted are on her belly and behind the ears. When I tell this to the kids they are able to focus on these places. It empowers them. The school was so grateful for us being there. What’s so wonderful about our visits is that even though they only encompass an hour it keeps everyone talking about the animals long after we are gone. The kids (and teachers) go back to their activities talking about our pets and they go home and tell their families about our pets. Everyone’s mood stays elevated long after we are gone!

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