MIKE NELSON AND BUBBA (part 2)
Mike Nelson and his teachers work together closely. They communicate weekly regarding the expectations the teacher has for the upcoming therapy dog visit. Mike then offers suggestions about what he and Bubba can do to enhance the goals set for the visit. This collaboration has produced amazing results and supports the mission and vision of the Nor’wester canine partners in education program.
Mike shares: “Most classrooms have a Smartboard. I will supply the teachers with photos of Bubba with labels such as “math,” “spelling,” and “reading.” The teachers then load the photos onto the Smartboard and use them throughout the week (not just during the hour that Bubba visits) to encourage and motivate the students. Teachers often use Bubba as an incentive: “Bubba will be here Friday, and he is eager to hear you read your book!”
It wasn’t long before the directors of the Nor’wester organization sensed that Mike and Bubba would be great in special education classes. They started with special needs children at Warwick House in Hartsville. Warwick is a residential facility, so children live there while emotional support and crisis intervention occurs. The Bucks County Intermediate Unit provides special education & emotional support teachers so the children can continue their academic studies while living at Warwick House.
The teacher at Warwick observed very quickly that Bubba had a very calming effect upon the students, which made it easier for them to focus on their assignments and make progress. Mike shared: “Bubba will sit or lie by their feet and listen to them read or do math flash cards. Each student has a chance to brush Bubba and choose a trick for Bubba to perform. Bubba is loved dearly, and he has received cards and books created by the students. Each Christmas Bubba gives the students a small stuffed likeness with a tag that says STUDY WITH ME. One Christmas the children and teacher gave Bubba a beautiful collar which he still wears.”
Then the Nor’wester directors asked Mike if he would take Bubba to help brain damaged/special needs students at Council Rock High School – North. Some are partially paralyzed; others are deaf or blind, non-verbal, and with limited attention spans.
Bubba works with the teachers and therapists to bring out the best in all of them. The teachers are very creative and often use Bubba in a group setting. One child would not speak or look at any adult. After a few months he had a one-word vocabulary, “Bubba,” and he would look at Bubba and Mike.
Many of the students are nonverbal and use their tablets to answer questions. Their tablets have a special page for Bubba with commands or phrases such as “Bubba, sit,” “Bubba, beg,” “Brush Bubba” and “Goodbye, Bubba.” As a group they select Bubba cards with numbers. The number determines in what order they will do an activity with Bubba. Some favorite activities are brushing Bubba and teaching him tricks. The students will help demonstrate a trick while Bubba watches. Then they all watch to see if Bubba can do the trick. Mike always gives them full credit for training his dog.
This year on Friday mornings you will find Bubba at Bensalem and Friday afternoons at Council Rock North. The teachers at both high schools think out of the box creatively and use technology to support how they use Bubba in their classrooms. The students and teachers at both high schools love Bubba and recently presented him with a red and yellow hand-sewn Super Dog Hero Cape. In addition, Bubba is working with an autistic support class at Maple Point Middle School in Neshaminy.
Bubba creates magic wherever he goes. Mike claims the magic formula for a therapy dog is:
Golden Retriever PLUS excellent training PLUS Nor’wester’s vision PLUS creative, dedicated teachers EQUALS Bubba, an amazing therapy dog.