Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Working Interdepently

Working Interdependently
Interdepently~Work together, learn together, depend on each other

I'm not sure there is anything cuter than listening to 1st graders pronounce big words with a bazillion syllables.

This is a hard word to say ....   In - ter - de - pen - dent - ly.

We said this word a lot of times today.

And I explained to my students that  this is the only way Chester and I function. We work together, we learn together, and...we depend on each other.

Besides our everyday life as a pet therapy team, a story came to mind, once again from Schreiber Pediatric in PA.  We were working with our little friend Naia.

Naia's Occupational Therapist was helping her to overcome big fears in order to  feel safer in her huge world.

Naia had come to trust Chester, so working with him in OT was not only healing and fun, but groundbreaking for this little one.

On this particular day, Naia was to crawl through an expandable tunnel.  For some children, this would look incredibly fun.  For Naia, it was overwhelmingly frightening.

 The thought was for Chester to pave the path through the tunnel.  And of course, Chester would loan a bit of his bravery to Naia, and she would follow.

 Chester and Naia both looked through the tunnel together.

I went to the other end of the tunnel and called Chester.

He looked at me. He did not move a muscle. He would not come. No way Jose. He was frozen.

This was not going as planned.

And so, I brought Chester to the opposite of the tunnel. He and Naia looked at one another through the very scary tunnel.

His four paws stayed firmly planted on one end, Naia's hands and knees firmly planted on the other.

Neither budged.

The therapist and I looked at each other.

"Naia," I said.  "Do you think you could help Chester   He's having a really hard time."

I pulled out the peanut butter jar and handed it to Naia.  "If you could just reach into the tunnel a little bit, maybe he will sniff the peanut butter, find his courage, and come to you?"

She pondered this situation, then nodded, and stretched her arm into the tunnel gripping the opened peanut butter jar.

Chester's nose twitched. mmmmmm  

Naia moved a bit further into the tunnel, s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g to Chester.   He could not resist. He came.

 And they met in the middle.

In the middle of the tunnel.

Chester licked the jar, and kissed Naia's outstretched hand.

"Good boy Chester," she whispered.

And  together, in-ter-de-pen-dent-ly, they crawled through the tunnel to the other side.

And then..............they did it again.  And again.   :)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Special Olympics

Yesterday was our  first time to share in the Special Olympics. What a blessing to be there. The day was filled with unexpected surprises, amazing athletes and volunteers, and a million memorable moments.

Chester gave and received SO much love throughout the day, no matter where we roamed there was always time for an athlete or helper to pat this pup and share some lovin'. Each moment was special at these olympics ~~  but, the moment forever etched in my memory is Chester poolside at the Special Olympics.

We were invited to share in this day from one of our favorite athletes at Almond Acres ~~ she is someone who has climbed into Chester's heart, and mine.  Audriana and Chester share a special bond that I can't explain, but, from the moment they met, it was love at first sight.

Our day began with walking into the Opening Ceremonies, Chester was at his friend's side. She proudly held one of his leashes as she marched in, leading the way for her  AACA friends. Uniformed Officers from Law Enforcement and Public Safety lined the walkways, greeting each athlete with encouraging words, a high five or knuckle bump....many with tears.  tears in these eyes too..........

Our plan was to stay in the packed gymnasium with Audriana and friends throughout the entire Opening Ceremonies. Soaking in every magnificent moment. However,  things did not quite work as planned. Imagine ExCiTeMeNt, thunderous applause, cheers & stomping feet on bleachers, exploding from over 2,000 people.  Great for people, not-so-great for my pup.  Thunderous applause sounded a bit too much like real THUNDER to his ears.  Chester gave me the this scares the bejeebers out of me lookwhich meant it was time for me to take my buddy outside to a quieter spot, so outside we stepped. 

After the Ceremonies we met our athlete poolside. Poolside for Chester usually means woohoo and swim time. Fortunately, he did not make the plunge, but greeted his treasured athlete at water's edge with a smooch, wishing her good luck in her swim. He would have joined her if he could!

As soon as she entered her lane for her swim event, Chester and I positioned ourselves at the opposite end of the pool, along with a few other cheerleaders from her family and school. When the race began, our little swimmer was kind of stalled in start position. The crowd cheered for her, and Chester began to bark, I am talking GIANT and LOUD woof woof woof. His eyes were on his girl in the pool, urging her forward. And forward she swam! Chester's tail was swooshing like a propeller. His barking was so loud and incessant that I pulled him back, looked into his eyes and whispered ....Chester, quiet.

He looked right back at me as if to say,  It's the Olympics for cryin' out loud, and our girl is swimming!

You're right.

Back to leaning over pool's edge and barking his brains out. He did not stop barking until his swimmer reached the end of the pool and popped her head out of the water ... and then he gave her a big ole doggie kiss.   .....And then took a serious drink of pool water.

It was the sweetest moment ever.

And then.

When Audriana stood on the podium getting her gold medal, she motioned for Chester to join her. And he did. And he posed with her.  And together they smiled.


 The Special Olympics --- beyond Special :)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Habit of the Week ~ Responding With Wonder & Awe

Responding with Wonder and Awe
Absolute Ahh-mazement, Jaw dropping Moments

This week I asked the students to say Ahhhhhhhhh. And freeze. That is Wonder and Awe, I explained. It's the moment when your jaw drops open and you are amazed at something....  Or someone. Or a thought or discovery. An idea. Or beauty.

I encouraged them to NOT pass these moments by, but to stop. Stop and step into the moment of Wonder and Awe to see what is there.  "You don't want to miss it," I said.

Which reminded me of a Chester story... of course it did :) . 

We were walking down the hallway at Schreiber Pediatric, on our way to visit Melissa, (our Girl Scout Cookie Friend!), when I heard someone call me. "Excuse me, you with the dog :)."

I turned around. The woman quickly explained to me that she was a Speech Therapist and her patient, who had never spoken a full sentence, was able to put words together for the first time, asking  "Can I pet the dog?"  

Talk about jaw-dropping moments.

The Speech Therapist continued, "I know you are on your way to an appointment, but would you mind letting my patient pet your dog?"    Oh my goodness, OF COURSE!   About face!

We stepped into her office and there we found a smiling little girl, about 6 or 7 years old, who sat quietly & eagerly waiting to pet the dog.  

"I hear you would like to pet my dog, Chester." I gently smiled.

She nodded, touching his soft fur. Then out came the words,  "I have a dog."

The Speech Therapist, with tears in her eyes, held up 2 fingers, "Sentence # 2", she whispered.

"You have a dog too?" I asked.

The little girl unzipped her backpack, pulling out a stuffed doggy. "This is my dog." she said.

 Sentence #3.

Sometimes the most magnificent Wonder and Awe Moments happen when you are on your way...
I'm so thankful we pawsed and stepped into the moment. 
It was a miracle moment indeed.

Habit of the Week ~ Compassion

A feeling that comes when you want to help someone who is 
hurting, sad, lonely, hungry, afraid.

As I pondered the habit of the week, "compassion", I read Mr. B's blog. Something that he wrote especially jumped off the page and landed in my thoughts.  He said,  ~~ We don’t need bullying policies in schools - we need compassionate behaviors.    ~~  True that.

A story came to mind.  Another Chester moment. Chester's specialty is compassion and this compassionate story took place many years ago on a Sunday morning.  

As I often do, I take my four legged buddy to church with me. During the service he usually nestles quietly at my feet, and after the service he warmly greets whomever would enjoy some puppy time. 

Of course this particular Sunday morning did not go as usual. 

While I was worshiping and singing, I was not paying much attention to my buddy and his whereabouts, assuming as usual he was right at my feet.  At some point though, I thought to look down and reached to give him a pat. However, there was no Chester.  Usually his leash is in my handand I do know this is the correct place for his leash to be :), however on this day for whatever reason I had just set it by my feet.  As I said ... usually, he just nestles in and snoozes. 

Chester MIA was either the perfect storm or the perfect opportunity for something wonderful. I looked left and right and down the aisle.  No Chester. Rut-roh.     

And then I turned around.


My furry friend was sitting in the middle of the aisle snuggled up close to a man in a wheel chair. A man whom I'd never met.  The man's hand rested atop Chester's head.  Chester looked right into my eyes as if to say,  it's all good, you can start breathing again. 

I quietly asked the man if this was okay with him. He gently smiled and nodded yes.  

A few moments later,  I introduced myself and Chester saying, "My friend here usually likes to sit with me, but apparently he wants to be with you today. :)  "

As we shook hands, he told me his name, and then went on to explain how it was his first time to visit this church,  and he more than welcomed Chester at his side.  And by his side is where Chester stayed the entire service, either sitting glued to the side of the wheelchair where our new friend could easily touch Chester's head, or laying down, Chester's head resting atop his feet.  

Each time I glanced back, tears welled in my eyes and heart, as I saw Chester reaching out to touch this man with kindness and compassion.

Chester's compassion birthed a sweet friendship, and many more moments together throughout the years to follow.

I'll always be grateful for that day ~~ you just never know the surprise blessings that might come from "compassionate behaviors"...... 




Habit of the Week ~ Inventiveness

 Having or showing an ability to think of new ideas and methods:
creative or imaginative

While  training my buddy Chester to heal, I learned he LOVED to pull, which of course is pretty dog-gone natural. However, beyond normal pulling, Chester was a super-strong and gifted puller.  Do I sound like a Dog-Mom?

Yes, it was vital he learned the art of 'heal'.  But, why not invent a way to let him enjoy something he was gifted to do?  Since he love love loved to pull, then let's create a way for him to do this.

And so we did.  I say "we" because I needed help with my inventive idea.

A trainer friend of mine taught a class in wagon pulling. We signed up. We started small, first just putting a harness and straps on my buddy. He began learning new commands such as left and right and easy and whoa. (These commands work especially well when I remember my right from my left!). From getting used to a harness and dragging straps behind him, we progressed to Chester pulling an empty gallon milk jug. After he became comfortable with the noisy, wiggly-jiggly plastic clunking jug trailing behind him, we progressed to a small wagon.  And eventually a little red wagon. With kids!

Ta-Da!  Inventiveness!!!  Happy dog!  Happy kids in the wagon!

As I shared pictures and this inventive story with the students, they  noticed so many inventive-moments....   from me wanting to invent a way for Chester to PULL, to the trainer, and harness maker, and wagon converter.  It took a village of inventors. Which is often how inventions go...   And it took time. And patience.  Which is often how inventions go.  With dreams and creativity, time and patience, sprinkle in a lot of help along the way....inventive dreams can become reality.  And change a life, or the world!

One of my greatest desires as a teacher, was, is,  to discover the gift(s) tucked inside each student --- and to invent ways to help each one shine.  
                        Inventiveness inspires....or is it the other way around :)  

P.S.  A most memorable moment of the day ~~ When I called on a student & expecting a dazzling comment about inventions, he said, "I think you kinda look like Hillary Clinton in that picture!"      

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Habit of the Week ~ Metacognition

The ability to think about your thoughts with the aim of improving learning.

What in the world?  Meta-what?  

Before pondering Chester stories to find that match-of-a-story to connect  this week's habit to the heart ... Well, first I had to visit Google, Mr. B's AACA Blog, and Mrs. Webster, (yes, she still has an honored place on my shelf), for meaning and understanding. Seriously, I had not a clue.

Here, are a few of my metacognition thoughts ~~ Metacognition is a million dollar word, that in my simple language simply means taking time to think about what I am thinking about. Being present in my brain, in the moment, not bouncing around in a kazillion directions &  being tugged by a bazillion distractions.  Truly, being purposeful to take to heart what I am thinking about.

And let me tell you ~~ When Chester is in the classroom, the students ARE
meta-cognitting :).  To the max.  It just happens.  It's one of the reasons we are in the classroom. METACOGNTION!  Who gnu?

Each week, when Chester and I walk through the classroom door, students instantly connect to their furry lovable buddy. When I tell Chester habit-of-the-week-stories, students are with me.  Whether talking about Chester's empathy, or Chester and his 5 senses.  Or Chester and humor. Chester and patience....or not. Chester and concentration. You get the picture. Students from 1st-5th grade, can tell you in d.e.T.A.I.L. each Chester story and how it relates to each habit.

I tested it out this week. The metacognition thing.  I was ahhh-mazed. The memory and connection and heartfelt responses from students in each classroom.

When Chester is in the room. He's just a kid magnet. And a brain magnet. A thought magnet. A learning magnet.

Metacognition!  Woof Woof!

Habit of the Week - Finding Humor

Humor - A quality that makes something laughable or amusing.

Why did Chester cross the road?  To get to the barking lot!      hahahahaha

What part of the tree does Chester like the most?   The bark!!!!!      hahahahahaha

What is Chester's favorite type of story?   A Furry Tail!   hahahahahahaha

What is Chester's favorite vegetable?  Bark-olli  of course!   hahahahahaha

What do Chester and Justin Beiber have in common?  They are both pawpular!   hahahahahaha

Why does Chester always wag his tail?  Because he has such a paws-itive attidude!  hahahahaha

 How long does Chester want to stay at school?   Furrrrrrr-eh-ver!

These riddles are compliments of AACA students....with 2 from me. And my lips are sealed for which is which.


Laughter and humor can certainly lighten a load and brighten a day. One classroom especially needed an extra dose of humor, laughter, and joy this week. Chester and I could feel the sadness and heaviness coming from these little hearts as soon as we walked into the room. Sudden loss and change are so hard. At any age.

Though we've visited this classroom regularly all school year long, I've never told the students Chester stories..... usually we've wandered the room helping with math or writing or projects.

 Today was different .

 Today what was needed was simply Chester, and Chester Stories.  And so we gathered on the reading rug for story time.

After we all groaned and giggled  through some of the above Chester jokes....I began telling warm-hearted Chester Tales. In great detail I shared about Chester and  the chickens in 1st grade.   I explained Chester's silliness and how he went absolutely bonkers each time he heard a tiny chicken peep. BARK peep. BARK peep. Bark peep.

Laughter filled the room.

I recounted the story of  Chester's LOVE for Peanut Butter Girl Scout Cookies and the day he went c.r.a.z.y. after his first taste.  How instead of helping Melissa with her balance and physical therapy, he was obsessed with cookies --- I told them how Melissa literally fell over laughing every time Chester escaped to find the cookies.

Smiles and giggles erupted.

It was time for me to go....one boy raised his hand. "Please Gigi, tell us another story!"  There were echoes of  'please just one more'  like popcorn popping up all over the reading corner.

Okay, one more :).

Laughter IS the best medicine.   ....and happiness is a warm puppy.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Habit of the Week - Persistence

Persistence ~  The ability to stick with something in spite of opposition, obstacles, or discouragement.

I look back on so many memories with my buddy Chester.  When I ponder the word persistence....I think of a school-age-boy who was probably 9 or 10 years old when we first met at Schreiber Pediatric Hospital in PA.   He was a  young man who struggled greatly with reaching his goals, or perhaps even thinking he had the abilities to reach beyond his current circumstances.  His very wise therapist helped this young man by setting a difficult but achievable goal, the goal of running 1 mile ~ a goal that seemed in the boy's mind to be out of reach.

Week after week this young man would practice.  Week after week this young man would get stuck at the half mile mark.  The task ahead would become too big. And he would quit, usually with a huge meltdown.  He needed an extra dose of strength body.mind.spirit.

And that dose came in the form a four legged friend named Chester.   It really was Chester, who helped this young boy get his eyes off of himself and on toward victory. Sometimes, it helps to walk, or run, alongside a smiling, trotting, tail-wagging-high, never.give.up, kind of best friend.

Persistence paid off. Our young friend made his finish line goal with hands raised, a smile across his face from ear to ear, a ribbon trailing across his chest, and heaps of new-found confidence in his spirit ..... & a panting golden retriever at his side. The entire staff at the hospital, family and friends, cheered with abandon!

That day is forever in my memory.

And the day I shared this story with my Almond Acres students...is a forever memory as well!  When I told the story of my PA friend crossing the finish line for the very first time, these California students clapped and cheered!  

Stories are meant to be shared. To inspire. To help us persist when the going gets tough. To remind we are not alone.  To remind us of what we are capable of doing, even when we think we can't...and that sometimes we might need a friend to help us  reach our goals, to cheer us on.

My friend at Schreiber Hospital would be thrilled to know that his struggle, which became his story of persistence and success, is touching lives like ripples in a pond ~~ going on and on to inspire others to cross their own finish lines.  



Habit of the Week ~ Looking Back

Looking Back .....
"An ounce of memory along with an ounce of courage launches brains forward and pushes on to great achievement." Bob Bourgault, Principal Almond Acres Charter Academy 

“Everything we do seeds the future.  No action is an empty one.” - Joan Chittister


This week I thought it would be fun for the students to remember Chester stories, lessons learned and moments remembered. The students were amazing! What magnificent memories! Hands popped up everywhere with Chester memories from these past weeks together.  And their journal writings reflected so many great Chester lessons. Some students even snuck in a few memories that I was unaware of .....  Like the 4th grade boy who could not go on a field trip because of a yucky awful painful headache :( . He lay in the office with hoodie over his head, resting for most of the morning.  His memory of that day, petting Chester. He wrote that Chester was the best part of his day. (And I thought we were just checking in at the office for business reasons :)  )

This day of LOOKING BACK will be a day I will look back on with fondness....... remembering that what we do truly makes a difference. Seeds planted. 

I will also remember this day for another reason ---- THE CHICKENS.                                                                       

This was the day the chickens hatched in first grade! 

Upon entering  Mrs. Feil's classroom and hearing the excited whispers of "Guess what...the chickens hatched!",  I thought  it would be a good idea for Chester and me to  check out these new little chickies FIRST THING, you know, before doing anything else.  :)      This was not a good idea at all.  Not even.

While the teacher was wrapping up a morning teaching time, Chester and I tiptoed over to check on the little freshly hatched peepers who were nestled and sleeping in their snuggly-warm hayfilled box. We were so quiet and they were so quietly snoozing away as we peeked our heads over the edge of the box. Chester's nose twitched....hmmm new smell in first grade.

And then one of the little peepers made a peep. 

Chester's ears immediately perked, his tail swooshed like a propeller going round and round,  and his eyes were glued to baby chicks.  If he could have spoken, his words would have been, "CHICKENS, Wooohooo, PLAYYYYY TIMEEE!"

The students giggled.  And giggled some more. 

Rut-roh.  If I remember back correctly ... bird/chicken & chase are possibly two words that go together in Chester's mind. 

I gave Chester a tug. "Let's go," I said cheerfully :).  I of course expected him to be his dazzling obedient self and follow me.

Ah. Nope.

Chester did not have on his listening ears. Except for peeps.  

I pulled out a treat.  
Not interested. 
One student said, "I think Chester likes baby chicks more than Girl Scout Peanut Butter Cookies!" 
Well, true that! Great thinking back by the way :)  .

The students laughed some more while Chester demonstrated what NOT LISTENING looks like!

I said..."Chester, watch me !!!  [seriously that was a joke]  Chester, it's time, heal, follow me!" ( I do not recommend this next action at all)  And I drug him away from the chickens, luring him with treats.

We at last made it to the other side of the room. While students giggled and teacher was LOL.

Chester settled a bit. Mostly. Sort of. 

I began to talk with the students about the current silly moment that we were already LOOKING BACK ON (giggle giggle) ... and then then  kiddos shared more 'thinking back' moments from weeks past with their best-dog-buddy Chester.   

Of course every time the chickies quietly peeped, Chester loudly WOOFED.    This happened a lot.

He was so bonkers. And so silly.  And doggone funny.

Mrs. Feil  was so gracious......telling me how laughter was the very best medicine for her soul on this particular day.

And Chester did create a new unforgettable memory for the 1st graders to look back on!

And I learned a lesson.....Note to self:  When there are little chickies in the room, do not take a bird dog to see and sniff FIRST.  Wait til  end. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Habit of the Week - Leadership

Leadership - A person who guides, directs, inspires a group

Once again, throughout the weekend, I pondered The Habit of the Week. Without a doubt in my mind I knew the story I would share with my AACA students  ~~

At school this week, 1st to 4th grade students inspired Chester and me
 with words they used to describe a good leader:
 trustworthy, honest, kind, responsible,
 fair, respectful, patient, keeps a promise, hard-working.  

These words described Chester's hero perfectly, 
a Super Star Leader in Pet Therapy 
 ~ Podley ~
Podley Eugene Gerth
Pet Therapy Superstar, Extraordinary Leader

When Podley came into the world, no one thought he would live, let alone be a Pet Therapy Hero and Leader.  Podley was born barely breathing, with only 3 legs.  And since no one expected him to live.... he was wrapped in a towel and set aside in the corner of  the room.  After all the puppies were born and quietly resting next to their mommy,  a tiny whimpering-sound came from beneath the towel -- and it was discovered that this little boy puppy who had been stuck in the corner, was actually alive and well and HUNGRY and ready to live.  He had a destiny!

As Podley grew, he had all the wonderful qualities of a great therapy dog.  Qualities that made not only a super therapy dog, but an outstanding leader! Loving, kind, never a mean bark :), trustworthy, respectful,  fair, playful, patient, strong, hard-working. In spite of difficulties, he had a never-give-up attitude, with an eternal smile on his face and wag in his tail.   When Karen Gerth met Podley, it was love at first sight.  Not only did Podley become Karen's treasured pet, he became an outstanding Therapy Dog, and he inspired an entire Pet Therapy Organization in Pennsylvania (KPETS).

Podley became Chester's hero and leader.

Podley had a special way with the people he visited. When children and adults saw ALL that he could do with his 3 amazing paws & pawsome attitude, they were inspired to follow Podley's lead.  

There was a special little girl Podley visited regularly.  He helped her in so many ways ~ especially in learning to be brave, to trust, and to love.  In fact, Podley was the very first one that this sweetheart had ever hugged.  On the day she reached her tiny arms around Pod's soft furry tummy to undo his vest, a hug was born with her safe and loving friend, and her heart opened a little wider to give and receive love..  

As Podley grew older, a  time came when  he could no longer visit his treasured friend.  It would take a very special dog to follow in Podley's pawprints.  And guess who was chosen to be her next pet therapy buddy.


Chester knew he had big paws to fill.   How could a 4 legged dog be as wonderful as a 3 legged dog? Chester could never be Podley, but he could follow Podley's leadership....and be Chester.

The day arrived for Chester's very first visit with Podley's friend. We walked down the hallway to her room. Peeked through the doorway. Chester swished his tail and calmly walked to her side. She reached her hand out to him, and gently touched his head with her pointer finger. Eventually her little arms reached around his tummy to undo his vest. She nestled her cheek against Chester's warm furry back. And Chester smiled.   Podley had taught him well. 

I shared bits and pieces of this story with each class we visited. An unforgettable moment came in 2nd grade. Truth be told, I  have a very special place in my heart for red-heads :) ...  and in 2nd grade there just happens to be  a cutie-pa-tootie little red-headed treasure.  I would describe her as sparkley. She just sparkles.

After sharing Podley and Chester's story, she was the first to raise her hand for questions and comments. And I noticed for the first time, (honestly I'd never noticed this before), one of her little hands had a thumb, and 4 teeny nubs, in the place where fingers usually grow. She waved her hand, hardly able to contain her enthusiasm ,  "Podley and I are alike, it's hard for me to grip a pencil with this hand, and it is hard for Podley to walk,"   she said with smiles and exclamation points!   I don't remember my exact response because I sort of had this lump in my throat, but it was something about how she and Podley had all the qualities of amazing heroes and inspiring leaders.

Before leaving the classroom,  our sweet friend read Chester her journal thoughts for the day.  She gave me permission to share them with you:

 "Potle was a good dog. 
He led the way for Chester. 
Potle can not walk (very well).
 I can not grab. 
Potle was adorable. I wish he was here now. 
Potle I will always pray for you."

I think sparkly AND adorable describe our little red-headed friend just perfectly. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Habit of the Week ~ Commitment

Commitment - A promise to do or give something

One of my favorite moments this week was sharing time in a 1st grade classroom,  hearing their thoughts and ideas about this b.i.g. word commitment.

Chester and I took our spots in front of the students....and I asked the question, "Who can give me some ideas about what commitment might mean?"  Hands popped up everywhere.

It means keeping a promise, even when it is hard.

It means doing what you say you will do.

It means sticking with something, even when it would be easier to quit.

Seriously -- these little first graders have such HUGE hearts and BRILLIANT minds and INCREDIBLE wisdom.  Tears welled in my eyes as I listened to their heartfelt responses.

And, with these dazzling definitions ringing in all of our hearts,
I went on to explain about my commitment to Mr. Chester.  


First, I showed the students his puppy picture!  Of course we all oohed and ahhed at his cuteness. Who wouldn't want to bring home this bundle of love?  Next, I explained that bringing him home meant I was making a promise, a commitment, that I would take care of him faithfully for all the days of his life.   Even on days when I was a sleepy head.  Even on days when it was cold and blustery and rainy. Even on super-hot days. Even on days I was sniffly. And on days I could not be with him, I promised I would find a super-subsitute who would take really good care of him.

What emerged as I shared about my commitment to love and care for my best-canine-buddy, was a beautiful picture of  what happens daily in the lives of students at Almond Acres Charter Academy  ~~ a commitment to educate and care for the whole child: Heart, Mind, Body, Soul.

Together, we discovered how my commitment to Chester, takes really good care of his Heart, Mind, Body, Soul.
I  FEED him everyday. And give him FRESH WATER.         BODY

I LOVE him. Everyday I give him hugs, affection, and kind words.   HEART

I EXERCISE him. Everyday he gets a walk, run, or bike ride.    BODY

I  TRAIN him. Everyday I teach him good manners and
                                          help him to be a good citizen !    MIND

And putting all of these together -- nurtures Chester's   SOUL

Thank you First Grade, you are wonderful students and teachers. 
Chester and I love you!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Habit of the Week ~ Patience

Patience: To accept or tolerate delay or problems,  without becoming annoyed or anxious (or barking or going bonkers).

What in the world do Peanut Butter Girl Scout Cookies have to do with PATIENCE?  Most 1st, 2nd, and 4th Graders at Almond Acres will be able to tell you the connection ~~  because it has to do with their buddy, Chester.

Here's the story~
When Chester was 2 years old, he met a Jr. High girl with long brown curls named Melissa.   During the three years that Chester helped Melissa with her physical therapy, they became best friends.  BEST FRIENDS.   One day Melissa, who just happened to be a Girl Scout,  brought Chester a gift. Melissa knew Chester loved peanut butter .....  and so she brought her best friend a box of Girl Scout Peanut Butter Cookies.  His very own box!

Before Physical Therapy started, Melissa gave Chester a sample bite. Chester went BONKERS. He climbed up in her lap, stuck his nose in the box and wanted more cookies. A cookie monster for sure.

It was time to get to work, not time for cookies.  Melissa needed to practice balancing.  Chester needed to practice patience. She set the cookies aside, stood tall and strong on the blue disc, and threw the green tennis ball for Chester. Chester started to run after the ball, then urchhhhhhhhhh, he stopped. He sniffed. He ran to get the box of cookies.  And Melissa fell over laughing.

Chester was not being patient...not one little bit.

Melissa's Mom hid the box in another room.

Melissa threw the ball again.

Chester ran after the ball.  Then urchhhhhhhh, he stopped. He sniffed. He ran through the doorway and stuck his nose in the Girl Scout Cookie Box.  And Melissa fell over laughing.

He was not being patient, not one little bit.

Melissa's Mom put the box of cookies in another room and shut the door tight.

Melissa threw the ball again.

Chester ran after the ball. He stopped. He sniffed. And sniffed. But this time he could not smell the cookies, so he ran to get the ball and brought it back to Melissa.

We all cheered and clapped.

Obviously, Chester needed to learn about patience when it came to Peanut Butter Girl Scout Cookies. First work, then cookies!

Here is a picture of him today.  Look at the progress he has made!

Watch me .... Good boy!


 P.S. Thank you to Chester's 1st grade friend, who just happens to be a Girl Scout, who brought him a box of his favorite cookies today.  Of course we opened the box right away, and of course it was the perfect time for a taste.    Oh Happy Day!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sensational 4th Grade Moments

In one of the 4th grade classes, 2 brave students volunteered to help Chester.  It's been awhile, but my buddy was going to demonstrate "over" and "under" --- using two human-bridges-on-hands-and-knees.  It took a couple of tries, and a whole lot of laughter, but it wasn't long before Chester soared over, and scooted under his two new friends, incorporating ALL 5 SENSES in the remembering process. Sensational!

While Chester was working on remembering exactly what "OVER/UNDER" meant, I remembered another Chester story ....which of course I had to share with the 4th graders.

I was speaking to a Cub Scout Troop and their parents, demonstrating this very same trick. I chose a volunteer from the back row ~~ an eager little Cub Scout in crisp blue uniform.

I asked him to get down on his hands and knees and make a bridge for Chester. With a few giggles and silly expressions, he quickly made a dazzling bridge. I commanded Chester "OVER!"  Chester ran, jumped, planted his front paws on little Cub Scout, sort of using him like a spring board,  and flattened him like a pancake. The crowd erupted with laughter, the smashed cub scout got to his feet, a little embarrassed but thankfully no harm done.   I looked at Chester (who was sort of smiling) and whispered, "What is up with this smashing the cub scout thing??"

Because Chester needed to make things right with his little buddy, and do the trick correctly,  (strive for accuracy),  the courageous Cub Scout somewhat reluctantly made another bridge.  I once again gave Chester the "OVER" command. ...The Cub Scout braised his arms and legs, scrunched his eyes closed --- and this time Chester soared like an eagle over his little friend, not even touching a hair on his head.

The crowd roared --- Chester took a bow, the cub scout sprang to his feet and took a bow!  We shook paws and hands with our brave new friend, apologizing for Chester's mistake and thanking him for being such a terrific and patient helper.

Here's the rest of this story....  Right before leaving, the Cub Scout Leader approached me.  He went on to tell me that the boy I had chosen for the "bridge trick" just happened to be a young man who struggled greatly with bullying other boys in the troop.  While rubbing Chester on the head, he grinned at me and said, "Do you think Chester knew?"

I don't know if Chester knew :) , but I do know this little Cub Scout had a wonderful teachable moment ~~ hopefully he had ears to hear and eyes to see.

Chester, you are a  Sensational teacher. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Some Encouraging Words

 After weekly visits in January, some feedback from the teachers...

“It  is great to know that you will come in and join in with whatever is going on that day. I know my students love seeing and petting Chester. It is nice to have you here during math since many kids feel stress during math, it makes it very relaxing. Thank you so much for taking the time to help individual students where they are struggling.

“WE LOVE BOTH YOU AND CHESTER!  I have wonderful writing samples from some of my most reluctant writers when Chester is there to listen to their writing!  Chester is both a fun and calming addition to our class on Wednesdays, and even my am parents love seeing you both.  I have some emotional kiddos and the morning works great for us because Chester changes their disposition and sets them on the right path for the day!   Thank you for being a wonderful part of 1st grade!”

“We just LOVE having you and Chester visit.  Every day I get a, “Is Chester coming today?”

“Would you come everyday? :) ...


A handwritten note from a  first grader (The note came tucked inside a paper airlplane, crayon-colored inside and out with hearts, a rainbow , green green grass, bright blue sky, and a happy golden retriever. ) 
Dear Chester! I really look forword to seeing you. 
You worm my heart.  
I love having you come to my class room.  
With love….

 Chester is gathering a collection of straight-from-the-heart drawings from his kids. Pencil sketched golden retriever masterpieces  ~~  We treasure each one. 

California Earthquake Drills

California Earthquake Drills

We weren't  in 3rd grade for more than 10 minutes...  when the surprise Earthquake Drill began~~ Chester had already enjoyed his "rub my belly and scratch my ears" time  on the floor with Ms. Chase, and we were settling into the classroom schedule for the day.  Oh, and Kai and I had shared our hugs!

Sidenote ~~Ms. Chase is a golden lover, and has been in love with Chester since the day he stepped paw on campus 4 years ago --- and she has been waiting oh.so.not.patiently for the day when our grandtreasure, Kai,  would be in her classroom and Chester would perhaps  visit on a regular weekly schedule.  This has been part of the deal each year -- if Kai's teacher would like Chester visits, we would come for regular visits, if not, that was okay too.  Truth be told, Ms. Chase would like Chester to live in 3rd grade furever. 

As I said, we had only been in class a short time, and we were settling in to listen to some "How To" presentations by students....
When……….all of a sudden….. the announcement came over the loud speaker that the school was having an EARTHQUAKE DRILL.  This means duck and cover under the desks until the coast is clear.  Immediately the students stopped what they were doing, scattered, ducked under desks and tables, covered their necks and waited quiet-as-a-mouse.     Chester and I, of course, ducked and covered too, though his hiney and tail stuck out a lil’ bit from beneath his 3rd grade desk. (pretty sure mine did too :) )

It was soooooooooo quiet.  

A minute passed.
And then...
We were instruected via loudspeaker to line up at the door and head out to the track field. Straight lines, no talking.  Chop Chop.
Chester and I pulled up the rear.
There was a pre-schooler visiting 3rd grade.  He and his Mom were helping 3rd-grade big brother with a presentation. Mom and big brother happened to be outside setting up for  a class presentation when Earthquake drill began.  Pre-School brother was inside  with 3rd grade students.  Little Brother was not so much interested in walking in line out to the playground without Mommy and Big Brother.  
However….you know…. Chester was in 3rd grade too.   

And so…. I handed Little Brother Chester’s leash. “Wanna walk Chester?”  I whispered.

He smiled, took the leash. And off we trotted.

The whole school was lined up in their classroom lines out on the track. It took quite some time for everyone to be accounted for.
Chester lay down, waiting patiently in the 3rd grade line-up. He was counted too.
All students, staff, and D.O.G. were safe and sound.
The horn sounded, and we were free to return to class.
I sort of felt like we bonded that day,  and officially became a part of the school :)

PS  ---   Big Brother and Mom reunited with little brother, and finished setting up their presentation.  Presentation was demonstrating how to pitch a baseball into a huge net. Big Brother is a SF Giants' Fan through and through. And an amazing pitcher.     Chester got to watch, chew on a baseball, CHASE baseballs, and hang out with his Kai AND his 3rd graders, not to mention get a belly rub  and ear massage, and lay quiet under a desk for a whole minute. Life is soooo good in 3rd grade, pawsitively!

Recess for Chester

Last year Chester met a special friend. There are times , and there’s no explainin’ it, when Chester and a special someone have this unique friendship connection.

This special someone happens to be a little treasure with Downs Syndrome. And from the moment these two met, it was love at first site.  It doesn’t matter what Chester is doing, whenever this sweet girl walks through the doorway, he stops what he's doing and trots over to his friend. The two are like magnets. Hugs and kisses abound.  And the way this little blonde cutie pie  says “Tester”…..melts my heart (and his) every time.

During our school day, we have built in recess times for Chester.  In between classes he gets 15 minutes to play and recharge. A little alone time is important for him, when he gives out all morning long inside classrooms.  We do this outside, away from the playgrounds and crowds.
Guess who gets to be my helper on one of Chester’s recess breaks? You guessed right.   It's built right into her Education Plan.  Sooo, two mornings a week Chester and i have a wonderful little helper  ~~ she walks Chester, throws the tennis ball for him, takes him for a short run, gives him a snack, encourages him with kind words,  of course makes sure he has a potty break, and on rainy days wipes his paws, and dries the wetness. She is a superstar at caring for her furry friend.

Today, when it was time for recess, we went to meet our helper.
 She and her Aide were swaying and singing....
“WHO LET THE DOGS OUT??? Woof Woof Woof.”  
Cracked me up. 

This recess time is joy in our day  ~~   No doubt about it.

Habit of the Week - Observation, Gathering Data Through All Senses

As Principal, Mr. B says ---- BE SENSATIONAL LEARNERS!!!
Because some of the best learning takes place when we incorporate all... or most... of our 5 senses,  IT MAKES PAWSITIVELY PERFECT SENSE that Chester's presence in  a classroom can bring increased opportunity to learn.  And a whole lot of fun.

From 1st to 4th grade this week, The Sensational AACA Students learned some amazing facts about Chester.  I did too :) 

Chester's 5 Senses
SMELL: A dog’s strongest sense is his sense of SMELL.  
He  can SMELL 1,000 to 10,000 times better than humans?!   
Wowser Bowser!   

HEARING: Dogs have a great sense of HEARING.  They hear sounds that are too quiet, too high, too low, for people to hear.  (That's why Chester is calmest in a quiet classroom.  That's why Chester can hear fireworks and thunder from far far far away)

TASTE:  To my surprise, this is a dog’s least developed sense. The sense of taste and smell are closely related , this is why foods that are SMELLY taste the very best to them!

TOUCH: This is the first sense a dog develops.  A mommy dog licks her pups and nuzzles them as soon as they are born.  Because a pup is born with eyes and ears closed, touch is their first way of communicating   (Chester likes ear massages and neck rubs the very best!).

SIGHT: A dog’s eyes are made differently than the human eye. Dogs  do not see color as humans do, they see shades of colors in black, white, and gray.  Dogs have great night vision, and side vision~~ much better than humans!  And, humans see distance much better than dogs.

Chester learns best and fastest when I integrate ALL of his senses into the learning process.   
When I use: 
·         My voice – he hears
·         My hand signals – he sees
·         A treat to reward – he smells and tastes  (peanut butter, bacon, fish, are his FAVORITES!)
·         A neck rub and ear rub to encourage and reward –  touch

In each classroom I demonstrated a few command, such as....sit and come. The students watched closely, making sure Chester used all 5 senses in the learning process. 

In one 4th grade classroom, two very brave students made human-bridges so Chester could demonstrate Over and Under.  It took a few tries and a lot of laughter, but Chester eventually remembered these commands like a champ (after incoporating all of his senses)!   (Take a peek at the post 4th Grade Moments  if you'd like to hear the rest of the story in 4th grade...and learn about a flattened cubscout :)  )

The teachers  had some SENSATIONAL writing prompts for their students.  Such as....
·       +  Close your eyes and pet Chester.  Describe how he feels.  Describe how he smells.
·       +Use your 5 senses to describe Chester. 
·       +  Describe a situation in which Chester would need to use his 5 senses.
     It was my delight to listen in as students enjoyed reading their discoveries and ideas to their soft-as-bunny furry friend, Chester.