Friday, December 18, 2009

Golden Trader

Golden Trader

Golden Trader. This is NIKKI’s breed according to Sam, a sweet 2nd grader that NIKKI visited this week. Sam has a pretty significant medical history that causes some balance problems with gross motor skills. Sam loves NIKKI’s visits and NIKKI loves her visits with Sam. What is different about these visits is that NIKKI and Sam spend time together by walking around the school. NIKKI loves to walk and Sam loves to walk with NIKKI. Sam’s physical therapist tells me that Sam has difficulty walking in line with his class, becomes anxious on steps and curbs and needs assistance when playing on the playground equipment. On our first visit a few weeks ago, Sam held onto NIKKI’s leash and walked down the hall. To me there was nothing unusual about this walk. We walked at NIKKI’s pace and Sam walked happily beside her. When we stopped to ask which way to go, Nancy, Sam’s PT stood shaking her head. Apparently Sam had never walked that fast during their sessions. She had never seen him walk without distraction, in a straight line and at that pace. Nancy suggested that we go outside to try the curbs. Sam and NIKKI happily stepped up and down the curb without hesitation and to the surprise of Nancy. Nancy said he always needs the help of an adult when stepping down and hesitates when stepping up. The same scene occurred on the bus steps….up and down.…no problem. (NIKKI had never been on a school bus!)

This activity went so well we decided to try using NIKKI on another obstacle for Sam – the playground. The playground not only provides the uneven terrain, the variety of steps, the ladders, slides and bridges but lots of kids. Crowds pose another obstacle for Sam. He often stops and hesitates when walking among his peers. We knew that having NIKKI on the playground would draw crowds of inquisitive kids wanting to pet the dog. The session started with Sam walking in line with his class to the playground. Sam happily walked beside NIKKI and, to the surprise of his teacher, kept up with his class. On the playground, NIKKI climbed some of the steps of the playground equipment with him and watched as he slid down the lower slides. Nancy wanted to challenge Sam so we went to the ladder and the larger slide. Sam climbed the ladder under the watchful eye of NIKKI and stepped over to the platform better than he had done before. NIKKI waited at the bottom of the slide. When it became evident that Sam wanted assistance to come down the slide I handed him NIKKI’s leash and NIKKI stood with her front paws on the slide waiting for Sam. Sam slid down by himself for the first time! Nancy says he only will slide down the slide with 2 hands held. He repeated the ladder and slide several times – which is also unusual for Sam. Nancy said once is typically enough. We also walked around the playground, stepping up 6 – 12 inch steps with just a leash and close supervision. Nancy and Sam’s teacher were excited by what Sam and NIKKI did on the playground. NIKKI is his motivator to try new things and for some reason gives him confidence he did not have without her. After recess NIKKI walked Sam to his class. NIKKI gives him the confidence to walk among his peers easily and without stopping. Once we got back to his classroom, Sam leaned over, hugged NIKKI and told her “Happy holidays NIKKI.” Sweet Sam has melted my heart. Witnessing his success is a wonderful feeling. I hope that NIKKI gives Sam as much as Sam gives me. I don’t care what the AKC calls NIKKI, to me she will always be a “Golden Trader”.

Hugs to all of you and Happy Holidays!