Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Leo At Your Service*

A blog post midday?? Why you ask? Shouldn't I be at work you ask?? Yes, I should, but, I'm not due to the sinus infection that mutated into an upper respiratory infection-again. I'm on the mend and am beyond grateful that my roommie had a spare refill of an antibiotic laying around so I don't have to shell out more money to see the doc (my health insurance hasn't taken effect yet). I'm kinda cranky about being sick, but, I'm trying to think positive here! I will get back all my energy and motivation to get stuff done.
Now that my "I hate being sick" rant is over let's turn our attention to Leo. Specifically Leo's adjustment to my job at a local elementary school. My schedule has been changed a multitude of times already which can be frustrating and sometimes hard on Leo as a new room, students, and teachers can cause him to neglect napping and be a bit overstimulated. The first week and a half ish it was really rough. He wouldn't sleep, he'd get a bit agitated, restless, etc. Now that we're more in a 'groove' he's doing better and following commands better than ever. It seems the more noise and the more we have to do in a day the better he pays attention. He still has his days/moments though, but, hey don't we all?

Leo's presence at school has gone over really, really well. The kids are in love with him. Whenever we're in the hallway the students will wave hello to him, ask me if they can pet him, and sometimes they talk to him as if he were just another student there. The first day I began cafeteria duty the kids in line began chanting, "Leo! Leo! Leo!..." (which had to be stopped before mass chaos ensued). Talk about cool. The art teacher has had the younger students make pictures of Leo and they now line the hallways. I've had children give me pictures of them with Leo (they also give me Zany Bands and pencils- score!). Leo is a rock star at school and I cannot help but think he is loving the attention.

I think the biggest impact Leo has made is with one particular student I work with. Due to privacy issues I cannot go into specifics about this one kiddo (I'll call him J for John Doe), but, I will say he has a lot of issues to deal with at such a young age. I've been working with J for almost three weeks now, for about an hour a day and it's so neat to see what has been happening. This student calls Leo, 'his dog' and he often reaches out to Leo to touch him- the action seems almost subconscious actually. The students have been told that there is to be no touching/petting without my permission (we also use petting Leo as a reward for good behavior), but, I am inclined to let J touch Leo when he needs to. His teachers comment on how much calmer J is when we're in the room with him and I know that's in part to Leo's mellow yellow lab presence. Animals can truly be amazingly therapeutic and I am so lucky to see this day after day, especially in the relationship that has formed between Leo and J.
To say Leo's presence has been a positive one is an understatement. I love bringing him to work with me even if it means putting up with the little hassles that will inevitably happen with a puppy and training a service dog. It's worth it though, and to show that I will leave you all with this one very sweet episode from last Friday. The student, J, came with his classmates to the 1st grade class I was working in to read to the younger students and the younger students would, in turn, read to them. We allowed J to read to Leo and I (see picture above). Leo laid down calmly and watched him read, gradually falling asleep. After J read for awhile Leo woke back up and watched him again staying really low key; despite the classroom being noisy the area we sat in was a sea of calmness. J asked me something and I asked him to repeat it as I didn't hear it. J asked if he could give Leo a kiss. I said yes he could and J gave him a gentle peck on his forehead and Leo sighed and looked at him with contentment. What a moment to witness. There's an understanding going on between those two, one that I don't get to be a direct part of, but, one I am more than happy to have develop.

*That is Leo's first name. All the service dogs are give the 'last name' of 'At Your Service'


Caitie said...

So cool. Animals are amazing, and it's awesome you can see the change in J just because of Leo's presence. And zany bands! You are totally in with those kids if they're giving you those precious rubber bands ;-)

Habebi said...

Isn't it great Catie? Animals are fantastic, I think more schools should have them. It would make a difference I think. Yeah there are some sweet kids! I had a few bands on my wrist to begin with and once they realized I liked them a few decided to give them to me! Soooooo cute! I wear them with pride everyday of course ;).

Sarah said...

How darling! I couldn't help but smile and get a little teary about a bond like that. How beautiful. You and Leo are doing great things!!!

Sara Louise said...

This is really touching. I'm a softie for dogs, and definitely for Leo, but this is such a lovely story. And I'm loving his portrait!

Habebi said...

Sarah- awe thank you! Seeing what Leo's doing is quite something! I think Leo and I's 'talents' were being wasted at the studio sitting around so much. Seems that it all has worked out for the best.

Habebi said...

Sara Louise- it is quite a story isnt it?? He helped J out today as he got very agittated about stuff. I told him to go talk to Leo and pet him. It worked! In less than five minutes J was back in his seat working on math a lot calmer.

annelise said...

Oooh, goosebumps. How gorgeous.