Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Ah...summer vacation. Quite frankly I am not sure there is anything better than summer vacation. For me it means no place to be, no time constraints, just time to relax and do the things that I have neglected during the school year. For NIKKI, summer break means just plain relaxing. She takes this relaxing very seriously...so seriously that she doesn't even lift her head when I ask her to go for her daily walk! Her eyes shift toward me as if to say "Are you serious, its summer vacation...I am not going for a walk". But her life is not all about sleeping, chewing bones and staring down rabbits in the back yard. We have resumed our weekly work at the hospital. Forgive me for sounding like a broken record but I love, love, love taking NIKKI to the hospital. There is nothing more rewarding than to make a sick child smile or allow a cancer patient the opportunity to share a story or two about their beloved dog. Even walking down the hallways evokes smiles and positive comments. Just last Friday a man said that NIKKI looked like royalty walking down the hallway! And you know - she does. She holds her head up, her tail out and she has a little spring in her step when she is working. Dogs just have a way of drawing people in and making them smile. NIKKI even makes my husband smile. For those who don't know Mark - he is not exactly a "dog lover" but NIKKI refuses to allow this to get in her way of winning him over. Mark works at the same hospital that NIKKI and I volunteer at. As a volunteer I get a free drink each time I work. On Friday, I went to his office to ask him to keep NIKKI while I went and got my drink. He decided he would go with me and keep her in the hallway while I went into the cafeteria. When I came out he was surrounded by women and his smile was from ear to ear! All I could hear is "Is this your dog Mark?", "She is just beautiful Mark", "Does she work here Mark?"....need I say more?! Mark seemed quite proud that day holding that leash! (By the way - if you happen to see Mark - don't tell him I told you this story...he will deny, deny, deny!! Just trust me it really did happen!) It is hard to deny the therapeutic effects of a dog. I think just the sight of a dog evokes a strong emotional response. If that emotional response is coupled with an interaction with a dog I really think that all that positive energy is somehow healing. That reminds me of one more story from the hospital. I woman stopped me in the hallway and asked if I could bring NIKKI to visit her husband. "He would just love to see her" she told me. We followed her back into the room and the man's face lit up. He told me that he had been in the hospital for 84 days - 50 of them in the intensive care unit. He told me that what was keeping him going is that his wife promised him a new dog when he got out of there! He smile and just went on and on about the dogs of his past and the kind of dog he was going to get when he got discharged. If that isn't a powerful story of how therapeutic dogs can be I don't know what is!

I only have the hospital work lined up for NIKKI this summer. I am certain I will have stories to share as there is always something magical about each visit. So stay tuned....


Sunday, June 6, 2010

NIKKI the Dirty Dog

The school year is finally drawing to a close. I must admit that it has been one of the best school years ever! I am so grateful to my coworkers for all their support and help to make this dream of using a dog in the classroom a dream come true. What is even better is that we are already talking about ideas for next year and ways to make what we did this year even better! I can only imagine that the sky is the limit! The NIKKI video was viewed by the administrative folks in the Exceptional Children's department and was received very favorably. Apparently there was even a few tears! I am humbled by the number of views for the video too...last I looked it was over 750 views! Not quite "viral" yet but I am happy that someone is watching it!

I now have the pictures from the Bubble Bath for NIKKI with my preschool class. I think the pictures tell the story a little better than my words...

This is me getting NIKKI ready for her bath. I am trying to make some suds so the kids can feel the bubbles.

This is little guy needs support to stand and walk. He used his gait trainer to walk over to NIKKI and help with lathering her up.

This boy is working on standing on his own....this activity was perfect for independent standing.

This little girl is blind and needs support in all positions. The teacher is helping her experience "giving a dog a bath"!

Here is a few pictures from another preschool classroom. We modified the "NIKKI Goes to School" activity to be appropriate for preschool. I love the preschool kids. They are so excited to see NIKKI and they really like to participate.

At the end of the story, NIKKI gives everyone a high five.....here she is giving a few a modified high five...more like a "give me five"!

And one of my favorite things to do is to ask the kids to get NIKKI some water. I usually have several very willing volunteers. I love these pictures of the kids carrying the water bowl. They are always so careful not too spill the water! Often, as in the picture above, the tongue is out!

NIKKI has had a super busy weekend. Yesterday she passed her CGC test with nearly flying colors! YEAH! Her sit, down, stay, come, passing the stranger and dog and her separation from me was flawless. She almost met the friendly stranger with a little too much enthusiasm and got a little distracted on the loose leash walk but came back to me before the leash got tight. Today she and I went to the hospital. As I have said before this is one of my favorite things. I love seeing the excitement on the patient's faces when they see the dog. I especially love to show the kids NIKKI's tricks. I usually can get a smile on even the sickest kids. Below is a picture of NIKKI this afternoon.....exhausted!

We have just a few classes scheduled this week and we will have wrapped it up for the school year. NIKKI and I will resume our work at the hospital every week. We will go to the hospital on Fridays so we can go back to the outpatient chemo unit and the pediatric floor. We will also go back to the outpatient pediatric PT clinic now that we can go during the day. I am really looking forward to summer!