Saturday, December 5, 2009

Give the gift of Hope

Last Thursday I got to hang out with the kids at The Lab again. This is week 5 of working with a small group of at-risk youth through a program of St. Paul Public Schools called The Lab. I had to miss our last session as my mom was in the Philippines visiting her mom. I'm so glad we got to go class Thursday. We assist Danielle G of Canine Coach who volunteers her time and leads these session. Danielle is so cool. I love her. She's also been my teacher in all my obedience classes at Canine Coach. The past couple groups she's brought her dog Sharpie who is a toy aussie. I like Sharpie. He's a young one :) Sometimes I have to give him this look when he keeps pestering me wanting to play ... he's always showing off all these tricks to the kids. On week 3 he showed them he knows how to "shake" ... so guess what, mom taught me how to shake that week so that I could go back and show "R" that I'm as good as Sharpie and that I could also shake. All the kids are great ... i've especially bonded with "R". I think "J" is especially bonded with Sharpie. And "S" ... well, he seems to bond with both of us!

Last week Danielle taught "R", "J" and "S" the "drop it" command showing the parallel of the different ways we can get someone to give up something valuable: a rough forceful way or a kind and compassionate way. They stuffed these toys with the most delicious smelling beef jerky treats then let us play with it .... next she dropped even more scrumptuous treats next to me and I hear in a pleasant voice "drop it" ... i'm no dummy, I drop the toy and go after the even better treats she just dropped!

We also played this relay race game. The kids took turns. They teamed up with Sharpie or me and had to get us to sit and stay, then they ran to the other end of the room and had to call us and get us to come. The first one there wins. Well, I lost all 3 times! But it's no fair. I'm older, have bad knees and am 3 times the size of Sharpie. Next time I am going to demand from Danielle that I get a 10 ft lead! :) The kids didn't care ... they love me even if i'm a little slow to get to the other end of the room :)

I have gotten to know "R", "J" and "S" over the 5 weeks. I remember how withdrawn they were when we first met. It's so amazing to see how much they have opened up. Last week "R" who came in the group with a check in number of "6" (at the beginning of each session we ask them to rate how they are feeling on a scale of 1 - 10 with 1 being i feel horrible and would rather not be here to 10 being i feel great! "R" came in with a 6. At check out he was a 10! When asked what helped ... he said "the dogs make me feel much better." I remember week 1 a little over a month ago .. their numbers ranged from 3 to 5 at check-in. Now even when something not so pleasant happens at school before they come for our session, or they get "in trouble" ... they come on Thursdays to work with Danielle, myself, Sharpie and Ahnung. They come with a smile on their face and a bounce in their step. They share more of their heart with us. They share more of their beautiful selves.

Hope. I see it in their hearts; i feel it in their spirit.

Hope. It's the most precious gift we can give to someone and to ourselves this holiday.

Please consider volunteering or donating to The Lab. And if you would like to sign up for obedience classes or therapy dog class I highly recommend The Canine Coach!

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