Melissa Johnson and Kari McGrath have hit upon an idea. They want to use man’s best friend to be, well, man’s best friend.
The pair want to make use of dogs’ natural abilities to have calming effects on people, and children in particular.
“The research has been eye-opening,” Johnson, a teacher at Strode Station Elementary, said.
So Johnson wants to use her 4-month-old Labrador, Penny, as a community tool to work with children in an effort to improve social well-being. To do that, Penny would need seven weeks of initial training and continued training throughout her service.
To help make this a reality, Johnson and McGrath got a little bit of help from Winchester Professional Firefighters President Bryan Howard, who was able to secure funds to help pay for the training.
The WPF will help cover the cost of training, then make use of Penny to work with children teaching fire safety.
The Boonesboro Animal Clinic and Dr. Patrick Riester have also joined in, agreeing to help with Penny’s veterinary needs.
Penny will take part in a three-week training course followed by a four-week course with Johnson, who will act as her primary handler.
Penny could also be used to work on projects with the local Girl Scout troops that McGrath and Johnson volunteer with. Penny could also be used by the local D.A.R.E. program.
McGrath and Johnson would also like to use Penny in a local “Mutt-I-grees” curriculum program, which “focus(es) on facilitating children’s self- and social awareness, relationship skills, and problem-solving abilities as a way to enhance children’s social and emotional competencies and academic skills,” according to education.muttigrees.org.
Contact Casey Castle at firstname.lastname@example.org.