Therapy Team Story of the First Quarter, 2014

 

Donna Schweitzer and Bailey 

This is the first quarter that Donna and Bailey have been a therapy team for Therapy Animals of San Antonio!  In this time they have been visiting the Chandler Assisted Living Center, both locations of the Ronald McDonald House and the
Warrior and Family Support Center.  Donna will be officially starting her StoryTails visits in mid April at La Vernia Primary School.  Donna wrote this poem below about her experience in being a new team.  Congratulations to both Donna and Bailey!

To be a TASA team member is so much fun

The experience is really equal to none. 

I'll do my very, very best, 

To help the readers pass their test. 

It is my Duty & Privilege, that's a fact. 

To be a StoryTails dog, & member of the TASA Pack.

 

Please go here to see photos and read stories of past and present teams in our organization!

 

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Therapy Teams of the Year, 2013

 

We wanted to take this opportunity to showcase all of our teams for the year!  Please go to  http://www.therapyanimalssa.org/news/news.htm to see the names of the teams that were winners of specific awards for the year.  As we realize that we have many more wonderful teams, click on the dates of our evaluations at the bottom of the page to see new teams and teams that renewed for the year.    Congratulations to all of our wonderful teams!

 

Please go here to see photos and read stories of past and present teams in our organization!

 

 

 

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Therapy Team Story of the Third Quarter, 2013

 

Ginny Flanders and Emma

 

Ginny and Emma are a great addition to our therapy teams!  They are a new team with us that just tested in June of 2013 and they are already visiting 2 facilities, volunteer for evals and also have attended some board meetings! 

 

Please go here to see photos and read stories of past and present teams in our organization!

 

 

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Therapy Team Story of the Second Quarter, 2013


Priscilla Williams and Hansel

Education Has Gone to the Dogs

by Tim Lewis

Dogs have been in the workforce for as long as they have existed as domesticated animals. They pull sleds across frozen wastelands; they herd a variety of hoofed animals; performed rescue operations; hunt and retrieve game; protected property and persons owning the property; they sniff out drugs, bombs and other contraband and fleeing criminals; and miraculously learned to sniff out cancer in people and predict a seizure before it happens. Recently some dogs have found their most passive job yet: Going to school to be read to by students.

I have taught middle school special education students for thirteen years in what is called an "Alternative School." This means my colleagues and I are responsible for teaching students who have been temporarily expelled from their home campus for discipline problems and serious policy violations. (i.e. drugs, alcohol, destruction of property etc.) These students are about as at-risk as you can get. They are troubled; they are behind academically; they are at times volatile and even dangerous. The majority are tough and hardened kids who have decided that they have little need for education, and put little effort into achieving it that education.

Our story starts with Hansel of Therapy Animals of San Antonio. He has no sister named Gretel, (that I know of, of course) and has never raided a candy house or pushed a greedy witch into an oven. Hansel does, however, have the easiest job in the canine work force: He plops himself onto a soft and fluffy mat while someone reads him a story, coupled with a good ear or belly scratch. Hansel's job may be easy compared to the work of his peers, but the importance of his job cannot be judged by the amount of labor performed.

In all the years spent at my school we have seen programs come and go, new techniques fall flat after the grim realization that the idea looked better on paper. My skepticism was on high alert when our counselor informed us that they were bringing in a "weenie dog" to whom the students would read. My very first thought was "Oh my God, that poor little dog. This has got to fall under cruelty to animals."

It turns out that I was completely wrong. The first two students for Hansel's inaugural reading session were a fairly rough and difficult pair (euphemisms both) that had been assigned to us many times in the past (we are not a miracle factory I'm afraid) and they both appeared apprehensive as well, and doubt was flickering in their eyes. Priscilla, Hansel's human companion, had obviously seen this look before and she explained the nuts and bolts of what the program was and why reading to a dog was not as silly as they might have thought.

Still, our students, skeptical by nature and nurture were not completely buying in to what Priscilla was telling them. This changed when Hansel, a gray and black weenie dog, a shelter rescued tube of cuteness and floppy ears, wearing a blue vest proclaiming the name of his organization, flopped down on his fluffy mat. As if on cue the "awwwws" began and the book was opened, and two of our roughest students were reading articles from the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation newsletter to a weenie dog with a fairy tale name that occasionally opened his eyes and rolled strategically for a scratch on the belly without a single noise.

I watched, mouth agape, as one of the students began to read out loud while Hansel lay listening. This student had not read out loud for any reason as far as I knew, and while the student was not a perfect reader he showed fluency that I found surprising considering his lackluster performance on standardized testing in his past. I gave this some thought and it dawned on me that Hansel would pass no judgment on the students or their skills, making it a more comfortable reading experience for the student.

For several months Hansel has returned to be read to by our students. Surprisingly there was no shortage of volunteers to read to Hansel. Not everyone was perfectly comfortable with it, but not one refused. Some of Hansel's best customers came away with something:

12-11-12: Student Gabriel was very childlike in presentation, and was overjoyed at the fact that Hansel liked to nuzzle with him. Gabriel stated the dog's attention made him feel "awesome"

12-18-12: Student Alexis was very shy and reserved and did not like to read to others. She called her time reading to Hansel was "Cool"

2-8-13: Student Thomas had awkward social skills. He stated he really enjoyed reading to Hansel and called it a "Special Time"

2-8-13: Student Jaime also struggles in social situations. He smiled throughout the reading and he thought the dog really liked him.

2-19-13: Another Thomas is a very serious young man who "Never lets his inner child come out and play" Normally suspicious of intentions Thomas warmed to Hansel quickly and smiled a great deal throughout the reading. Ultimately he called it a "chill" experience.

These are but a few of the success stories (and fairy tale if you like) that we have had with the project. The experience did not "fix" any of our students; that is what time is for, and a good deal of it. What we have done with this program is showed some pretty tough kids that it's ok to smile, to laugh, to read aloud without fear of failure, but to simply enjoy the experience.

It is a tough time for the education business. It seems that each new generation of students are harder to get through to than the last. So far there is no solid, failsafe method of educating our most challenged and challenging students, and there probably never will be, but we do get to plant little seeds. The best we can hope for is that others continue to water these seeds. Thanks Hansel, for being one of our seeds.

San Antonio is not the only place this organization exists. If you know someone in need for any reason, look around locally and see if you can find your own therapy dog.

Afterword: Therapy Animals of San Antonio does not limit themselves to schools. They are also active in hospitals, nursing homes, and juvenile court, and other places where a helping paw is needed. Thank you and your sister programs in different cities for your service.

 Please go here to see photos and read stories of past and present teams in our organization!

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Therapy Team Story of the First Quarter, 2013

 

Carlynn Ricks and Hemi

Hemi and I were working in therapy recently at a rehabilitation facility.  I looked up to greet our next patient.  She said, "I know you.  I worked with Darcy when I was here the last time."  I did a little math and said, "That was at least six years ago."  She confirmed that.  She didn't actually remember too much of that hospital stay, but she remembered working with the dog, and, amazingly to me, she remembered the name of the dog!  I was lucky enough to get this feedback.  I share it with you because I know the same is true for most of you on many of your visits, but you don't get to hear about how much of an impression you made.

Please go here to see photos and read stories of past and present teams in our organization!