'AISD elementary using dog to reduce stress on students'
As a professional dog trainer, Dawn Mellick has seen first-hand the effect that dogs can have on people, especially children.
With four children who have gone through the Aubrey ISD, including two sons currently at the high school, Mellick saw a need for a therapy dog at the campuses.
“I have seen therapy dog programs work so well at other schools,” Mellick said. “My number one goal was to train Daisy to bring her into Aubrey ISD to help with stress during finals, to give some extra attention to kids, to start up a reading program.”
Daisy is Mellick’s 21/2-year-old blue heeler/lab mix that she has trained since she adopted her from a rescue as a puppy. Mellick saw right away that her sweet disposition would make her a perfect therapy dog.
“She is the most well-balanced dog that I have ever interacted with,” Mellick said. “She can remain still in crowds and can be touched all over. It really is her disposition and it started right from the beginning.”
Mellick and Daisy have been visiting several campuses since last May after working with Aubrey school counselors, and on Oct. 5, she was the headliner in the “Reading With Daisy” pilot program at Brockett Elementary School.
“Daisy did great, and the kids loved her,” Mellick said about their first reading visit.
One by one, eight students on a recent Thursday morning stopped by the Brockett counselor’s office and read to Daisy for about 15 minutes in a little covered nook. After the reading time is over, there is a plan for Daisy to stop by a class that teachers have chosen to receive a special visit.
Brockett’s school counselor Melodie Foster contacted Mellick about Daisy coming on a regular basis for a reading program after the two had visited classrooms earlier in the school year.
“When I worked in Frisco, there was an organization that would bring therapy dogs to the school and my son really enjoyed reading with the dogs,” Foster said. “I’ve heard of other schools that have had their own therapy dog. So, we decided to start a program for our reluctant readers.”
Foster asked Brockett teachers to let her know if they had reluctant readers who might benefit from reading with Daisy.
Within a few days, she had 20 responses.
“It gives them a safe place to read where they don’t feel judged or corrected,” Mellick said. “Daisy isn’t going to care (whether) they read right or not. It gives them confidence. We want this to be a positive experience for the kids. It also gives us an opportunity to educate students on dog safety and proper ways to approach dogs.”
Mellick has also explained the difference between a service dog and a therapy dog. Students have learned why it is important not to pet a service dog, which has been trained to do work that eases their handlers’ disabilities. Daisy’s job as a therapy dog is for people to pet her.
Daisy has been training as a therapy dog for the last two years and is going through the paces to be accredited through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, a volunteer organization of dedicated therapy dog handlers.
According to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, the benefits of having a therapy dog in the classroom include reducing blood pressure, increasing physical stimulation, promoting self-esteem, stimulating memory and problem-solving skills and lifting moods. The therapy dog is also there to offer friendship.
Daisy will also be visible at other campuses at assemblies, finals, cross-country meets, football games and around the community.
“It’s neat for the community to know she’s theirs,” Mellick said. “I tell the kids that this is their school therapy dog. It’s been a really sweet experience for Daisy, the kids and even the teachers. I expressed to all the counselors that if you need us, we are there