Therapy Dog Visits Notre Dame Elementary
Wed, 09/27/2017 - 12:22pm admin
CRESCO - Students at Notre Dame Elementary received a special visitor last week in the form of MJ, a therapy dog-in-training.
Lisa Kammerer stopped by the school to introduce MJ to the students and to explain the golden retriever’s duties as a therapy animal.
Lead Teacher Renee Cuvelier welcomed Lisa Kammerer and MJ to Notre Dame Elementary:
“I’m here to introduce to you Lisa Kammerer and her therapy dog MJ, who is a therapy dog-in-training, and Lisa will let you know all of the great things MJ does and when you see Lisa and MJ in the school, what kind of words you should say if you would like to pet MJ,” Cuvelier said.
Lisa Kammerer introduced MJ to the students:
“This is MJ. She’s a golden retriever, and she’s one year old, and she is going through training with me,” Kammerer said. “We are in training together, and she works with me at hospice. MJ comes along with me and she sits by people and they get to pet her, and she makes them feel calm.
“I’m the chaplain at hospice, so people like to talk with me about God and I pray with people, and if people are scared to talk about things, MJ just makes it more comfortable,” Kammerer said. “It’s easier to talk to people as you’re petting a dog, so it calms nervousness and anxiety. MJ is in training to be a therapy dog. She’s taking three classes already, and she’ll pass one more test before she gets to be an official therapy dog.”
Kammerer said they are taking classes at the Good Dog Center in Decorah, although MJ’s final test will be located further away.
She explained the difference between a dog who is a pet and therapy or service dogs:
“It is very important to know that if a dog is wearing a vest, that means the dog is at work.
“Some people have dogs that they don’t want you to pet, like service dogs, because they have to be very attentive to the people they are helping. If someone was blind and had a dog, they wouldn’t want you to pet them because the dog is working,” she said.
“I have a therapy dog, and she is okay to pet, so you should always ask. If you see a dog wearing a vest, you should always ask if you can pet the dog. Sometimes people say ‘yes’ and some people say ‘no’. With MJ, I’ll always say yes because she is a therapy dog and loves it when people pet her.”
Kammerer described the best way to approach a dog:
“If you are going to approach a dog, sometimes rubbing the top of their head is scary for dogs, so it’s always good to let them sniff you first, and then just touch them gently under the chin. That’s much more comfortable for dogs.”
Kammerer told the children what to expect when they see MJ around the school.
“When she’s working as a therapy dog, MJ is always wearing a vest and always will have her leash on. When she is here at your school, she is going to look like this.”
Kammerer said in addition to hospice, MJ also visits nursing homes and people’s houses.
“She comforts all sorts of people. Some people really like pets, so it makes them more comfortable.”
Kammerer took questions from the students. She explained that MJ was a golden retriever, although her coloring is more red than golden. She said the family bought MJ home as an eight-week-old puppy.
Golden retriever but she’s a little bit red. They can be this color all the way to a light golden. When we got her, she was 8 weeks old.
Cuvelier joined Kammerer to demonstrate to the students the proper way to approach someone who has a dog:
“When I come up to a dog, I keep my hands to my sides. I say, ‘Please may I pet your dog?’, “Cuvelier said.
She continued, “Then let MJ smell you first, and then pet her under the chin, not the top of her head. When I’m finished, I say, ‘Thank you.’
The students repeated after Cuvelier, and then formed a line and took the opportunity to greet MJ.