Jake is the animal half of the Pet Partner Team with Linda Wright. Jake’s Story: (as told by Linda)
Jake is a big black Lab that came into our life about a year ago. We had a little dog named Squirt who had been fighting cancer for over a year when he lost his fight in Jan 2003. I lasted until March without a dog, and then told my husband we had to have another one. We rescued Jake from a Lab rescue group in March of 2003 when he was about 10 months old.
I had signed up for therapy dog training with Squirt, but when we were called, Squirt was already gone and we had Jake. However, we had had him for only a month and he was too unruly to pass the evaluation. We worked with him and he was able to pass in Aug of 2003 and we received our certification during Dec 2003.
During training I realized that Jake is very drawn to children, so we decided to work in the R.E.A.D. program. At first, we substituted at Park Avenue Elementary in Nashville for Nancy Keen Palmer and her dog Munchkin. After a time we got our own “kids” to read to Jake at Park Avenue.
We have one child in particular who has won both my and Jake’s heart. This little boy is very shy and actually afraid of dogs. The first time he came into the room to read to Jake he just stood by the door and read very quietly. He wouldn’t even look at me, and there was no way he was getting near Jake. He would not respond to my questions or comments, just did his reading. After he was done he would pick out a sticker, if I brought it over to him, and kept Jake away. After just a few weeks I was able to get him to hold my hand as we gave Jake a treat. Shortly thereafter I finally convinced him to come into the room with Jake. Now we were on our way. He was sitting by Jake while he read and even answering my questions.
Then one day he completely surprised me by wanting to pet Jake. As if he knew that this little boy was afraid of him, Jake just lie there and let himself be petted. I was so proud of Jake and this special little boy. Since that time, he comes in and sits by Jake, but won’t pet him again. I find we take one-step forward and ½ step back, but at least we are making progress. Last week he asked me if Jake drank water or juice and he gave Jake a treat by himself. That was a huge step for him. Now he reads in a louder and more confident voice, and will talk to us. He is even looking up at me in the eye when he asks his questions.
Jake and I are helping his reading ability, but even better, we are helping his self esteem and confidence. What a wonderful reward for all of us. So even though you may think you are not making a difference, even in a small way you really are.