Farch. It’s a word that feels much like it sounds. Farch is the long, cold, gray period of time between February and March. Fewer hours of daylight and less playtime outdoors in Farch often leads to more coughs, colds, and flu bugs indoors. Some say Farch is the armpit of the school year, but it’s not all bad… really.
It is during this dreary time of year that we celebrate Literacy Week at Sauk Trail Elementary School! This year’s Literacy Week was different in more ways than one. All of the students at Sauk Trail read a common book called “Last Stop on Market Street,” by Matt de la Pena. It is a powerful and touching story about a young boy who learns some important character lessons, such as gratitude and finding beauty in unexpected places, while on a bus ride with his grandma. And this year, those themes were given special emphasis as a result of our honorary guests from Dogs On Call.
When the sign-up sheets for the dog visits went up in the teacher’s lounge, the excitement among staff was palpable. There was a mad scramble to get permission slips signed and arrangements made for students with allergies. Meanwhile, the anticipation throughout the school was contagious. Mr. Todd, our school custodian, asked more than once if a dog could come and visit him during the day. Ms. Shelia, our school secretary, was hoping for an extra set of paws in the office as well.
It was a gray morning when Andrea arrived with Samantha and announced “It’s a Golden morning!” And sure enough, another Golden Retriever named Daisy walked in the door with Kay. This was no ordinary day–there were dogs at school!!
The number of smiles and “awwws” anytime a dog was spotted in the hallway or entered a classroom was immeasurable. Thanks to the generous and patient handlers, Kay, Karen, Chelsea, Andrea, and Todd, many students and staff were able to meet and greet more than one dog while passing in the hallway. All of the handlers did an excellent job of sharing information about their dogs and graciously answering ANY question that came up. One kindergartner had a burning question, “When is Daisy’s birthday?”–because when you’re five years old that is THE most important day of the year.
There were, of course, countless stories shared by students about their own pets.
Addison, a first grader, was beyond thrilled to learn that Izzy shared the same exact name as her dog! And just like the students, many staff shared their love and interest of dogs with one another. Thanks to the inspiration, Sauk Trail’s librarian, Mrs. O’Rourke, has even decided to train her dog, Dewy, to be a “Dog On Call” this summer.
There were several students that opted to initially keep some space between themselves and the dogs due to uncertainty or fear. However, the calm and peaceful energy of these dogs and the comfort level of the handlers had most of these students inching closer throughout the visit. Zombie handled Karen’s visit to a fourth grade classroom like a champ. He had no fewer than 18 hands on him for the entire visit. There was so much love and affection exchanged, it was beyond heartwarming. Thanks to Karen for sharing her amazing book about Zombie. What a full and exciting life for a dog!
It did not take long for Mrs. Hustad’s 3rd grade class to decide on their Persuasive Writing topic after the dogs showed up. Mrs. Dahlk, our principal, can expect 18 essays on “Why Dogs On Call should come back next year” to arrive upon her desk any day now. All of the feedback received from staff about the visit echoed the same sentiment–“We should do this again next year!”
These visits were a super introduction to the important jobs of these dogs. Next year Sauk Trail hopes to incorporate Dogs On Call in other ways, too. We would love to give kids time to read to dogs! Chelsea, Captain’s handler, suggested a dog safety course for our younger students during summer school, and someone on our Literacy Action Team suggested that the dogs come back for career week. One 2nd grader in Mrs. Bilak’s room was inspired to write an impromptu poem to mark the special occasion.
Doggy in the Room, by Isabella
Come right inside the room.
are you ready
For the Bloom!