I’m training to be a what?!
He was a recovery-canine of sorts for the Child (after a rescue effort gone awry) and the two quickly became inseparable.
They played together. She hauled him all over California. He became her ever-present sidekick.
He was unflaggingly loving, gentle and, well, muppet-like and became fast-friends with everyone he encountered.
Why hello! I’m Charming.
Right around this time the Child encountered bumps in learning to read. Nothing major, yet I longed for a FUN way for her to practice the skill which didn’t entail hours of reading aloud to me.
It was during one of my carless treks I saw a sign on a library announcing a new program.
A program where children of all reading levels could sign-up to read to a therapy dog.
A calm, gentle, furry, non-judgemental reader dog.
I later asked the Child what she thought about the idea (A dog inside the library?! AWESOME!), set a reminder for the sign-up date, and life intervened.
By the time we settled back in Austin two things had happened:
The Child’s reading had improved and the Doodle gotten old enough he could, in fact, be trained to be a Bow Wow Reading Dog.
And our new Saturday morning activity was born.
The first week we had no idea what to expect.
A group of dogs in a classroom setting seemed a recipe for mayhem, but not only was Charming shockingly well behaved the others dogs were extraordinary.
a long walk before class helped.
Each week we learned a skill which would help both handler and dog know how to thrive in all types of settings.
While we only wanted to train him to be a Reading Dog (he’s too young & energetic for us to want to bring him to hospitals or nursing homes) many in the class planned to visit Dell Children’s Hospital or other more “complex” settings.
Why no. Your metal rolling chair does NOT stress me out!
Each Saturday we’d get up at the crack of dawn
have absolutely nothing to do for hours to interact, train and practice.
is there a big bi-ped behind me?!
Charming learned how to behave with distractions (kids, toys and lots of cookies).
During the week we’d bring Charming places with lots of bipeds so he could be loved up and given “rough hugs” (part of the testing protocol) by strangers.
Hello Strangers! Wanna meet my Doodle?
The training was exhausting for both Child and Doodle—but the deepening bond between them made this Mama smile.
Not only was the Child learning to be calmly assertive in CrAzY settings, but the better the training went the more her self-esteem blossomed.
An exhausted Charming
Soon it was time for Charming and the Child to practice actual “Bow Wow Reading” in the classroom setting.
I was nervous as we’d just gotten her reading on track and one of the “tests” involved her reading to a group of wiggly children while a.
(insert photo here I cannot share since I didn’t get permission from families)
The Child did great.
She’d not only found her voice in keeping Charming calm during the crazy—she’d conquered her own fears along the way.
Sure she stumbled with words as she read, but she shrugged and moved on with a sense of confidence I’d not seen before.
A few sessions later (including one hilarious one involving faux staggering and a giant sombrero) it was graduation day.
The three of us have hours of practice ahead as we prepare for the testing in August–but this whole experience has been phenomenal.
I’ve read so much about the importance of anchoring praise with children as only when they’ve really done something praiseworthy do our words increase their self-esteem.
I needed to say nothing during this process.
She saw how well she did handling Charming and working with him alongside the adults in class.
She knew how hard she worked to stay focused and to keep him focused during class and beyond.
This post began merely as clarification for those who spied photos on social media and asked what we were training Charming to do.
The more Ive written (and edited even though it may not seem like it) the more I’ve realized all this *does* have to do with healthy living.
One of the most important parts:
I’m eager for Charming to be a Reader Dog and yet, as with much of life, the process has been greater and more rewarding than our Reader Dog goal could ever be.