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Colette’s Magic

Three years ago my life changed when my dog Colette and I joined Nor’wester Therapy Dogs.

We were assigned to a third-grade classroom at Thomas Fitzwater Elementary School in the Upper Dublin School District. My couch potato dog, a sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, was now up and off the couch, and I was with a wonderful group of children and an amazingly creative teacher. Each week we worked on a different academic skill from telling time to reading fluency. Colette flourished in the classroom setting and walked more quickly each week to get to the children she loved.

Because Colette and I enjoyed our visits so much, this year we chose to be with two third-grade classes and a fifth-grade class. It is so impressive to watch the children’s academic progress and equally impressive to observe their social and emotional growth.

In one of my classes I have a student who is painfully shy, almost to the point of selective mutism. Initially, she would not speak in class or even in a small group sitting with Colette. As the weeks passed, Colette’s calm presence encouraged this child to speak and increase her volume as well. Since the beginning of the year, she always sits right next to Colette and pets her the entire time her group is with us.

Last month she read two paragraphs to all of us, and it was the first time it was loud enough for everyone to hear. Another girl in the group turned to her and said, “I love to hear you read because you have a beautiful voice, and we don’t get to hear it very often.” All the children in the group agreed.

It was one of the most amazing moments in ALL my classroom experiences. The teacher has since reported that the child is also having normal classroom interactions too!