Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reading Day is Extra Fun When a Newf Comes to Your Classroom

Today was reading day in our school district. Almost 700 volunteers were asked to read a story to a classroom of elementary school children. The goal was to have every single class visited by a member of the community. Therapy dogs were also encouraged to attend although there were only a few participating. Katie and I visited a class of second graders at a school less than 3 miles from our home. There are actually a couple of schools closer to our house, but we were told that the need was greater at this particular school.

The school was in a beautiful old three story brick school building. It was very charming and its occupants were even more so.

When we first arrived we went to the media room to receive our instructions. There the media specialist introduced me to the most adorable little boy and asked him to lead us to our classroom on the third floor. The little boy was probably about 7 and was so sweet and well behaved. He struck me as being as well mannered as you would hope a 30 year old man would be. I asked him to carry my book so I could focus on Katie. When we reached our classroom I held out my hand to take the book and he extended his own little hand thinking I meant to shake his hand :-) So I shook his hand and then requested my book.

As we entered Ms. B's 2nd grade classroom the children's eyes got big at the sight of Katie. Waves of exclamation filled the room and Katie grew a bit uneasy. She had never seen so many children all at once. She let out a few very loud Newfie barks which seemed to shake the walls. This startled the kids a bit so I decided I must do something quickly to help Katie and the children relax. I asked Katie to do a down, sit and then shake just to get her mind off the situation. Then I put her in a sit stay and asked "Is anyone feeling brave enough to feed this big dog some carrots?" 5 hands immediately shot up. I left Katie sitting at the front of the room as I passed out a few carrot slices to each of the interested children. The teacher commented that her dog would never stay put like that. I went back to the front of the room and asked the children to come up to Katie one at a time. Katie gratefully and gently ate the carrots out of each their little hands. I asked "Does anyone else want to feed her?" Four or five more hands quickly shot up. More carrots were fed to the Newf and then I asked my question again and round three of the carrot feeding commenced. I think maybe only two children out of about 18 didn't want to feed her.

There was a chair for me to sit in to read my book selection, but I wanted to be near Katie, so I put her in a down, sat on floor and started reading with the kids gathered round.

Our book of the day? "Newf" of course :-) by Marie Killilea

It is a precious book - perfect for their age group. The children tried to listen politely, but their attention was mostly focused on Katie.

After the story was read it was time for questions. One little boy asked the only question about the book. He wanted to know how the kitten had gotten buried in the snow. So, I had to explain blizzards to a group of Southern kids who are lucky to see 1/2 an inch in a year of the white stuff.

Next the kids wanted to tell me about their pets. One little boy said he had a cat like Katie. I jokingly said "that big?" He nodded. I just let that slide. Then I got the usual questions like, how much does she eat, how much does she weigh?

I had been wiping Katie's mouth frequently, but the slime got away from me once near the end of our visit. Katie decided to christen the classroom Newfie style and did a very thorough job of slinging slime in at least a 5' radius away from her head. "Yuck" & "Gross" they exclaimed. The teacher was really cool about it, "Kids it's no big deal". I explained to them that Newfs are water dogs and have flappy loose lips and webbed feet to aid them in swimming.

One little girl asked "Are you visiting the other classes with Katie?" "No," I replied "your class is the only one that got to have a visit from Katie. I have to take her home now and go to work." [Let me preface this next part by saying that I was wearing nice black wool pants with a red sweater.] Another little girl said "Where do you work? Red Lobster?" I chuckled a bit on the outside, inside I was rolling on the floor with laughter and I laughed for the rest of the day every time I thought of this question. I guess she associated my red top with Red Lobster. I told them a tiny bit about where I work and started saying my goodbyes. I really didn't want to leave. I would have happily spent the whole day with that group of extremely sweet and well behaved children.



Kathryn and Ari said...

I can't wait to read that book!

Hey, Happy Thanksgiving to you and the beautiful dogs.

Princess, Tank and Isaac: The Newfs of Hazard said...

Good girl, Katie!