Westport sixth-grader Ellie Storey handles therapy dog Jessie as students from Lakeside School meet them.
As the members of Susan Satloff’s enrichment class spoke with children from Lakeside School, a year of hard work was on display.
Throughout the 2012-13 school year, the sixth-graders have learned about training and taking care of three therapy dogs — Bailey, Shiloh and Jessie — who live with Satloff.
“Theses dogs are perfect for this kind of program and for kids that want to learn to be dog handlers,” Satloff said. “This group of students came along and wanted to learn how to handle dogs and train them, and it turned into a nice community project.”
The dogs, and students, were all trained through Therapy Dogs International, and each of the students became certified dog handlers.
Sixth graders who took part in the class included Taylor Gough, Malynda Lobdell, Pipiena Malafu, Hannah Schwoebel, Elizabeth Stephens and Ellie Storey.
Each said that they had learned a lot in the program about handling dogs, what a therapy dog does and why they are needed.
“It’s very important that these dogs help others,” Gough said. “They play a big part in people’s lives.”
“It was a lot of work and a lot of fun,” Lobdell said. “We learned how to train and take care of dogs.”
“We learned how to teach the dogs’ commands that they would listen and respond to,” Malafu said. “I also learned about the proper way to approach a dog by putting your hand out so they can sniff it before trying to pet the dog.”
“We learned about basic training and safety around dogs,” Schwoebel said. “It was great to learn about the dogs and to earn our certification.”
“There is a lot of hard work that goes into training these dogs,” Stephens said. “We learned so much and there is a lot more to the care of a dog then just food and water.”
“It is a lot of work, but it was really fun,” Storey said. We learned about how to train the dogs to help others and what you need to do with a therapy dog.”
The students had fun presenting their story and research to the young students at the Lakeside School, and Satloff said that they were able to handle the dogs well in an outdoor environment.
“It was a great job for them to keep the dogs under control with the chipmunk that kept running around in front of them,” she said.
“The dogs were really good and I was glad that we were able to do this outside with the children,” Schwoebel said. “It was really fun.”
“I think they learned what dogs need and how to approach them,” Storey said.
“I am so excited to do this again,” Stephens added.