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            Carlynn Ricks with Hemi and Faith                            

On a career day at an elementary school, all the presenters gathered in a very small classroom.  We had extra time and I was bored, so I looked around, saw a black man in military camouflage uniform, and asked him about his job.  He told me he was National Guard and was on staff at the school, doing a special program.  He gave me some details, and I told him it sounded like a great program. 

Then Gilda, Brenda, and I with our dogs went to the classroom where we talked for 25 minutes each to 5 groups of kids.  During the third presentation, while Gilda and Brenda were talking to the kids, I noticed a small child sitting on the far side of the hallway with a teacher, watching us.  I went out with 11-pound Hemi and sat down on the opposite side of the hallway, quietly saying hello to the 5(?)-year-old boy, telling him it was OK not to want to pet the dogs, keeping the adult from pushing him farther and faster than he wanted to go with Hemi.  As we just chatted and he seemed OK with the situation, I gradually moved a little closer to him.  As I got close, I put Hemi's rear toward him, since that's the safest place to touch a dog from the child's point of view, then turned Hemi around until the boy was comfortable petting Hemi.  Then I went back to the classroom to do my part of the presentation. 

At the end of our 5 sessions, we went to the multiply-handicapped classroom next door where about 15 kids were happy to meet the dogs, except, as the teachers quickly explained to us, for the little boy who was afraid of dogs.  It was the child Hemi had met earlier.  I went over to him, and he easily petted Hemi and, by the end of the 5 minutes we spent there, had petted all 3 dogs, including Brenda's 70-pound Weimaraner Jessie! 

At the end of the morning, the presenters gathered in the same classroom.  The black soldier came up to me and said, "You know the little boy you spoke to in the hallway?  That was my son.  Thanks so much for helping him get more comfortable with dogs.  My son and wife were attacked by a big dog.  I got in the middle to protect them and was slightly injured, but they weren't.  We want to get a dog, but we need to get my son comfortable with dogs first.  You really helped." 

Sometimes we're lucky enough to know the effect we have.

 

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