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Monday, April 30, 2012

Desensitization

April 26, 2012
Wherein FLD Scout returns to the scene of her discontent.

Mrs. Matthews emails me. Seems the second-graders at Surline Elementary have thank-you notes and pictures for Phyllis and me after our presentation about Leader Dogs for the Blind. (See my post "Overexposure" from Thursday.)

This note from Samantha was one of my favorites. Can you tell why?

"We will be sending the notes in the mail unless you can stop by and pick them up the next time you are in West Branch."

Not one to ignore a training opportunity, I quickly agree to a revisit. Controlled exposure to kids is just what FLD Scout needs to overcome her trepidation.

I park a few blocks away to give Scout a chance to settle into working mode before we enter the school at the start of the day. Mrs. Matthews isn't in her classroom yet when we arrive, so I put Scout in a SIT/STAY at my side just outside her door.

At first, FLD Scout pokes her nose toward the stream of kids rushing to class, "awwwwws" breaking in currents around us. I can tell the second-graders--they are the educated ones not reaching out to touch Scout's head. When Scout shrinks back, I step in to physically block the inquisitive and persistent hands. Please don't pet her, I gently admonish, she's working.

At last, Mrs. Matthews appears to save us, her tall, lean frame towering over the sea of bobbing heads. "Come on in," she says. FLD Scout shakes it off and does a nice "around" to go through the door.

Mrs. Matthews' class is polite and happy to see us, and eager to hand over a thick stack of colored pictures and notes. One little girl presents me with her pencil. "It needs sharpening," she says, "but you can have it." FLD Scout and I hang out long enough to learn how to figure out the perimeter and area of rectangles--in centimeters. (Did we even do this when we were in second grade?)

After the math lesson, I heel FLD Scout around to each student as they sit at their tables. Scout sniffs each one and waggles her body for petting.

My desensitization plan is working.

FLD Scout and I leave with an open invitation and a schedule of field trips through the end of the school year. I think we've been adopted!

Here are a few examples of the notes and pictures from the second-graders at Surline.

Lily titled her picture "Super Dog." So true.

On the back of Lily's picture is her note. I love how she drew all the kids in line to pet FLD Scout. Petting Scout and Autumn was the favorite part for most of the kids--can't say the same for Scout!

In each class I ask the kids to look through their tightly closed fists to demonstrate how a visually impaired person might see. I also ask for a volunteer for "juno" training. The volunteer closes his or her eyes and holds the handle of an actual Leader Dog harness; I am the "dog" and guide the volunteer around the room. Juno training is a big hit!

Megan likes the "juno" training!

Verbatim (and as spelled), some more letters...
Der bog Trainers, Thank you for you coming in to are classroom. And thank you for leting me be a blind person. Sicerely, Shaun
Dear dog trainers. Than you for teaching us about leader dogs. I think leader dogs are amazing. I can not beleve that they teach some dogs how to sign. But I think it would be sad to have a dog for one year ownly. I would be so sad. But someone blind would need the dog more. I think it would be hard work to train and be a leader dog. Thank you again for teaching me about leader dogs. Sicerely, Mason
Dear Leader Dog Ladies, Thank you for giving us the wonderful stuff. I love dog, exspesile Scout and Autumn. They look so cute and are well behaved. And remember don't say "park" to many times in front of the dogs. Love Charlie
Dear Leader dog Ladies, I would like my dog Rocky to be a leader dog. I will buy him a cape. I will show him how to help people who can't see. I will train him. Thank you for coming to school. I will tell my mother to send money. From Madison

Aren't these cool?!


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