Robin, the school dog – Tammy Beechler
Robin’s training began a year ago with the professional guidance of Jennifer Cattet and her supportive staff at Medical Mutts. Jennifer and her staff were very motivating and encouraging throughout the shaping of Robin’s training. In order to obtain Robin’s Facility Dog status, her and I committed to a six month program, which successfully lead us both to the place we are today.
Here is our story:
Seven years ago I obtained Bixby, a Facility Dog. He had countless stories of success with thousands of students both behaviorally and emotionally. Unfortunately, we lost our companion to Hemangiosarcoma two years ago. Acton elementary school is fortunate to have found a successor dog in Robin.
The students in my classroom are typical developing peers along with children who have specific learning needs. The student population at Acton Elementary is approximately 450 children ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade. Acton has a very diverse learning community, but the teachers and staff have a strong compassion and desire to educate all of our young learners.
Robin assists and supports these diversities too by increasing students empathy, compassion, decrease retaliatory violence, and improve self-esteem. She helps students stay connected with social networks, reduces anxiety levels, and helps children to decompress after traumatic circumstances. Robin can improve reading skills, comprehension, increase confidence, and literary interest. Overall, a dog can lessen the emotional trauma of a critical incidence/event for the students, teachers, and staff.
Robin has been utilized in the capacity of a Facility Dog for our school. She benefits students through emotional and physical health, as well as promoting literacy in our students. A Facility Dog has the ability to touch the lives of thousands of children over the course of his/her lifetime. Research has shown that Facility Dogs, properly managed in the school setting, can make a measurable difference in gaining various skills such as reading enhancement, but also in contributing critically to emotional & rational development.
School counselors are finding that the presence of a dog can decrease anxiety and problems. In the classroom, children can learn safe ways to interact with an unfamiliar dog helping them overcome fears and achieve confidence around dogs. Guided activities and group discussions help teach students how to handle interpersonal conflicts and develop constructive responses.
The benefits of a dog program in the school have been well documented through research. A furry friend improves physical interaction as it reduces blood pressure, provides tactile stimulation and stimulates the senses. A visit with a dog socially allows a positive mutual topic for discussion, promotes greater self-esteem, well-being and focused interaction with others. Companionship with a dog cognitively stimulates memory, problem solving and game playing. Emotionally, an adorable four-legged visitor improves moods, provides laughter and encourages acceptance.
I have come to realize having a facility dog has such a remarkable and irrevocable impact on the entire community of Acton. I recently had a parent, whose child has frequent episodes of anxiety, tell me that Robin is now the reason her daughter will get up and go to school in the morning.
Since Robin has been with Acton and me, I have noticed the happiness and excitement that was there before with Bixby return in the smiling faces of the children that can only come from a four-legged friend. I can finally see that being the successor dog to Bixby she has ultimately exceed all the accomplishments he made in his brief lifetime and turn it around tenfold. The facility dog program is one of my greatest joys that I offer to our students. I am confident that Robin will continue to fulfill her job as facility dog and continue to touch the lives of many.
“Robin is a joy to have in the building! She not only lifts the spirits of the students, but she puts a smile on the face of everyone she comes in contact with!”
“Robin always brings a smile to the faces that she comes in contact with.
A student last year (CC) would get off the bus every morning she knew Robin would be here and say “Robin day”. I think she lived for “robin days””
ENL instructional assistant
Jennifer Cattet Ph.D. is an author, researcher, dog trainer, consultant, and Executive Director of Medical Mutts, a non-profit organization specialized in the training of medical alert dogs for conditions such as seizures, diabetes, psychiatric disorders, etc.