Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kids, Books, and a Greyhound!

And a beautiful quilt but I'll get to that in a little bit!

As some of you may know, I've had Greyhounds since 2003 when I first adopted Reminisee Blair now known as Remi. Shortly thereafter came PB's Honey Fritz now known as Sugar, then Yopon Laverne now known as Lucy, and lastly Oakland Scarboro now known as Sami. The latter being a total "uh oh" as she was definitely not planned but that, my friends, is an entirely different blog post!

So, when you have dogs, you like to include them in activities, right? The old mantra - a tired dog is a happy dog holds true in my household, that's for sure! Well, I've done lure coursing with Remi, Sugar (who was #4 in Greyhounds in 2005), Lucy, and Sami. I've also participated in pet therapy with all four. Pet therapy is where we visit nursing homes and children's hospitals with our Greyhounds. The patients and children just love loving on the dogs. We all know that therapy using pets is quite beneficial for our health. For those in nursing homes, it is known to:
  • Diminish emotional pain
  • Diminish physical pain
  • Reduce boredom
  • Reduce anxiety
  • And it makes people happy

For children, therapy with pets teaches them:
  • Gentleness
  • Caring
  • Responsibility
  • How to interact safely with an animal, and most importantly,
  • Allows them to love an animal
Researchers found even one 30-minute long session of animal assisted therapy reduced loneliness to a statistically significant degree. Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, 7/02. Pets provide internal chemical therapeutics for people. Tests show that within minutes of petting a dog, the humans and dogs alike experience massive release of such beneficial hormones as prolactin, oxytocin and phenylethylamine.

So, with all this being said, I have been very active in pet therapy since adopting my first Greyhound in 2003. We've certainly enjoyed our experiences and most every month, the patients at the nursing home crack me up with something they say or do. They know us and we know them and when we see an empty bed, it truly is a very sad moment. Our only hope and thought is that a new patient will reside in that room who will enjoy our visits as much as the last patient.

At one visit many years ago, we stopped in the hallway and chatted with a woman who was trying to tell me about her day. Afterwards, a nursing assistant stopped me to ask what we had done because this particular patient hadn't spoken a word in over 6 months. Of course, it was nothing we did specifically but I suspect having the Greyhounds spurred some memory for this particular patient. Perhaps she had had dogs of her own in the past and seeing them made her remember them fondly and, quite frankly, come to life right before our eyes. It was quite a thing knowing we had a small part in helping that patient "reconnect", for lack of a better word. I will never forget it, that's for sure.

Another form of therapy using our dogs is called R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs). This is where trained R.E.A.D. teams visit schools and libraries and serve as reading companions for children. The program is very successful with proven results by increasing reading test scores and improving reading levels for children of all ages. It works because the children aren't intimidated by reading to a dog as they sometimes can be reading to an adult or teacher. The dog does not criticize or judge the child. The program increases their self-esteem, thus making the children enjoy the reading experience.

So, Lucy and I embarked on this next journey by completing the necessary training and registering as a R.E.A.D. team. In Georgia our program is called Reading Paws. We then started searching for a library who would welcome our program with open arms. We found that with the Smyrna Public Library.

Our very first visit was March 19th. Lucky for us, our entire hour was filled with appointments made by four children. The first to read to Lucy was a little boy named Varun. He is from India, I believe, and if there was ever a very animated and enthusiastic reader, this is Varun. It was quite comical but you could tell he loved to read and loved reading to Lucy. After Varun was done, a little boy from Africa read to Lucy. He had a bit more difficulty but he did pretty well for a child his age. The book he chose was a difficult one, I think. Next time, we'll get one that is a bit easier for him. Then a Mexican girl read to Lucy. She was a really good reader. By this time, the hound in Lucy had come out and she was sprawled out on the blanket fast asleep. I told the children that Lucy was listening and was just resting her eyes. The last child was the best friend of the first Mexican girl. She also was an excellent reader. I believe three of these children have signed up for every session until June or so and we will be there two Saturdays a month. Whoo hoo!!

What an excellent start to what I foresee to be a wonderful journey with kids, books and a Greyhound!!

Oh, I cannot forget to mention the beautiful quilt my sister made for us (see picture above). We were very lucky to have Brooke Shenson of ShopMollyd fame donate several Greyhound appliqués which my sister included on the four corners of the quilt. With the largest appliqué that Brooke sent, Pam made a most awesome quilted bag that I will use to transport the quilt to and from the library. Obviously we will use the quilt to sit on while the children read. It is absolutely a stunning piece of art!! I am very proud of the quilt and thank my sister profusely for dedicating her time and talent to the cause. We truly appreciate it and will take very good care of my new artwork! Pin It


Spiffo said...

Great post! Amazing what a Greyhound can do (other than race). Cheers

IHateToast said...

that was absolutely lovely.

Greyhounds CAN Sit said...

What a gorgeous quilt and bag:)

It's wonderful what you can accomplish with your dogs in the USA. We have no opportunities to do anything like this where we live. It must be very satisfying for you and a highlight for the people you visit.

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Mine were always bad at pet therapy because they were only interested in looking for crumbs on the floor or staring at me. Of course, I trained them to be like that. :-)