Acknowledgments and Thank You's
It is hard to believe it has been eleven years since our “Christmas miracle” unfolded at the Bryan Middle School. In December 2004, middle school staff was preparing to announce at a Christmas assembly, the addition of Allie, a 5 year-old Golden Retriever, as the first ADAI School Therapy Dog to join our counseling staff. We were in an intentional “hush-hush” mode, as we wanted all BMS students to be surprised by this beautiful Christmas gift: their very own dog who would be with them daily!
As the assembly drew closer, I found it difficult to contain myself! We all had a role to play in telling the students about their new friend, and mine was to make the official announcement that Bryan Middle School would have a furry face joining all of us when we returned from Christmas vacation.
Students and staff were shown a video of Allie, sharing how BMS had been chosen to receive her because of a recent collaboration with Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence on a special classroom project. As everyone left the assembly, they were given a Christmas picture of Allie as the newest addition to the BMS family. Even now, people tell me Allie's sweet face still adorns their refrigerator. I know she’s still on mine!
Arriving back to school in January 2005, school counselor Jackie Boyd and I were overjoyed. We now had Allie to help kids on a daily basis! Yet, I still remember looking at each other saying, “NOW what do we do?”
We had some vague ideas on how to effectively use Allie, but nothing tangible or finalized. That would come. First, we needed a starting point. We needed to have all kids meet her and let them know some basics about how they should treat her and act around her. She was not going to roam the hallways without a handler, nor was she going to distract kids during their classroom lessons. Most importantly, we wanted the students and staff to understand Allie belonged to ALL of them, not just one person.
Looking back, it was amazing how much the kids took to her and loved her. They wrote letters to her, drew pictures of her, made a snowwoman (Jackie) and snowdog (Allie) in front of the school. They wanted to learn where she came from, and about ADAI. Over time, they learned about kindness and respect through her presence. It wasn't the easiest thing we had ever done. It was time-consuming and difficult at times. But, to us, it was one of the most rewarding and important experiences we had had in all our years in education.
The addition of Allie and what became the beginning of the ADAI School Therapy Dog Program were not something we planned. We had no idea it would happen, nor did we imagine how far-reaching and significant it would become. All of us involved, from the beginning, were simply in the right place at the right time. I firmly believe there was a divine hand guiding us, encouraging us to reach out to kids, not just in Bryan, but everywhere, to make the world a better place.
Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!
The Allie Project has been a collaborative project, one we could not have accomplished alone. It would not have happened without the many caring people who shared our vision, who believed a school-based Therapy Dog working on a daily basis could make a real and lasting difference. Our never ending thanks goes out to the following individuals and organizations who believed in and supported our dream:
• 4th grade teachers in 2003-4, Helene Moog and Kathy Clark, for asking me to be involved in helping regularly with their classroom. Our goal was to have these students reach out to others and help others in order to grow and help themselves.
• Jackie Boyd, 4th grade teacher and Counselor Intern at that time, who immediately shared the vision, and provided invaluable insight and support from the beginning. (Jackie later became a counselor at BMS and Allie's primary handler.)
• Chris Diefenthaler, then Executive Director of ADAI, who agreed to collaborate with Helene's and Kathy's classroom and who offered BMS, in November 2004, the chance to have our very own School Therapy Dog.
• Barb Tietje, of Bay Village, OH, who offered to return Allie to ADAI because she knew that Allie had much more work to do in her life.
• Beth Hollabaugh and Rich Tavierne, BMS principals in 2004-5, who also supported our vision of having Allie come to work at BMS.
• Jim Gunner, then Superintendent of Bryan City Schools, who immediately said YES to this proposal.
• Bryan Middle School staff members, parents, and students who jumped in to give support to this new program.
• Our Bryan City Schools Board of Education who supported the decision to invite Allie into our ranks.
• The entire Bryan community, including our local media, which gave time and energy in spreading the joy of having Allie at BMS.
Local veterinarian, Brent Pettigrew, who, along with his staff at Fountain City Veterinary Hospital, provided most veterinary care for Allie free of charge.
• Janet Romaker, of The Blade, who wrote several articles about our new endeavor with Allie and stayed connected throughout her time with us.
• Jim and Pat Frank, our FrankTalk friends, who wrote articles about the “Golden Light” of Allie and allowed us to write articles about her, too. They still provide encouragement and joy to us.
• The Bryan Fraternal Order of Eagles, Aerie 2233, who fell in love with Allie and her mission and have supported ADAI through many Reverse Raffles which have provided well over $100,000 to ADAI and our program.
• Our PhD colleagues, Amber Lange and Christie Jenkins, who have done research on the topic of dogs in counseling and who have presented with us to interested groups.
• Jenny Barlos of ADAI who continues to be an inspiration and cheerleader for all involved in this program.
• Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence and The Ability Center who continue to provide support and encouragement.
• Our entire group, past and present, of School Therapy Dogs and all their handlers. The camaraderie among this group has always been phenomenal. Without each of them, we would never have been able to share this endeavor.
• Dan Wilkins, The Ability Center's Director of Special Projects, the creative computer “guru,” whose insight has been invaluable in this website's design and the creation of The Allie Project.
• All the professional organizations who have invited us to do presentations about our program. We have traveled to many places, including Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, California, and Canada.
• O-I Charities Foundation and The Scaife Family Foundation. These are the sponsors of The Allie Project, without whom we could not have created this curriculum.
• My family and friends who never tire of hearing about my passion: School Therapy Dogs.
I am not alone, for I am sure our whole group of past and present handlers, would agree with me when I say the ADAI School Therapy Dog Program continues to be one of the very best things that has ever happened in my life!
ADAI School Therapy Dog Program Coordinator
December 19, 2015
And thank you to Tyler Moore, of Tyler.com, for providing the malleable WordPress theme and tutorial I used to create this site. Great tool, easy to use.
Director of Special Projects for The Ability Center