Spirit Celebrates 8th Birthday with Kindergarteners

Spirit Celebrates Her 8th Birthday with the Holy Name School Kindergarteners

Spirit will actually be 8 on Sunday, January 22, but she celebrated today during her regular Thursday morning Reading Dog session at Holy Name School.  Last week one of the kindergarteners happened to ask how old she was and got all excited when I said she would be 8 in a few days.  I asked Emily, the kindergarten teacher, if we should celebrate Spirit’s birthday the next week.  She said the kids would love to sing Happy Birthday to Spirit.  I said I’d bring treats, which she said the kids would love.

I looked through my recipes and decided to make Elephant Ears, a yeast-bread cinnamon treat that you roll into 5″ ‘circles’ that with some imagination look like elephant ears.  I made the dough last night after I returned from a meeting.  The recipe said to chill for at least 2 hours, so I put it in the fridge overnight.  I had never done it that way before, but I wanted to bake them in the morning so they were still warm when I got to the school.  Imagine my horror this morning at 5 a.m. when I took out the bowl, ready to roll and bake the ears, and all I had was a heavy blob of unleavened dough.  I frantically looked again through my recipes for something I could make from scratch in a hurry.  I settled on my grandmother’s peanut butter cookies.  All went well until I grabbed my brown sugar – and it was hard as a rock.  I was beginning to feel cursed!  I hurriedly microwaved it with butter until it softened enough to use.  By that time the proportions were off, so I added more peanut butter to the mix. The cookies turned out a little dry (should have added more peanut butter or another egg, I guess), but fortunately kindergarteners aren’t picky – and the cookies were still a little warm when we served them and quite edible.

After all that, I even got to the school on time.  As I flew out the door, I grabbed my camera – and I’m very glad I did.  I got some GREAT photos! Photos 5 & 6 show her reaction to everyone singing Happy Birthday to her.  And look at Spirit’s expression in a bunch of the photos as she holds her sit-stay despite our cookies lying on napkins on the table.  Do you see the two with her tongue out?  The kids had set a place for both of us. and Spirit thought we should EAT FIRST before taking photos.

Recently I found a great online article about a teacher who turned her student’s worst monsters into cuddly toys.  [This Teacher Surprised Her Students With Stuffed Animals Of Their Drawings (sunnyskyz.com)].  It gave me the idea to get some little plush GSD stuffed animals and we could give them to a kid who participates in Reading Dog and who is having a hard day.  They could take them home and bring it back the next day. I would put a red heart tag on them that says “Spirit the therapy dog loves you.” (Their ID badge with Alliance of Therapy Dogs says “I am a Therapy Dog” on one side and “registered with ATD on the other – and is a red heart).  The kids all know that red heart.

Emily, the kindergarten teacher, loved the idea, so we started looking for sable (like Spirit) plush GSD toys.  Joy, the activity director at Big Horn Rehab, found some that would work.  Emily ordered two and said she also had some small blankets to go with them, like Spirit’s rug at Reading Dog.  I found some perfect tags at Muddy Pawprints and Jocie engraved them for me.  The stuffed GSDs arrived in time for me to pick them up yesterday, find a couple of puppy collars that fit them, and attach the tags.  I took photos of them on their blankets on my kitchen counter – the first photos in this series.  After we celebrated Spirit’s birthday, Emily introduced the two “reading pups.”  Don’t miss Spirit’s reaction to the “pups!”  We said nothing to the kids about them being a comfort; instead, Emily announced that they would take turns taking the “reading pups” home and reading to them there.  She is also starting a unit on responsibility, and it will include discussions of taking care of pets. 

We then started our Reading Dog sessions.  I grabbed my camera once because I just had to get photos of Spirit calmly wearing the boy’s “pound puppy.”  The last 3 photos are ones two of the boys asked to take with my camera. One nearly knocked my camera off the desk as he set his book box down, and of course that made him notice it and ask if he could take a photo of Spirit and his reading partner.  Then the other boy of course had to take a photo, too.  Actually he took two, but the first one only showed part of Spirit.  They struggled to look through the viewfinder AND push the button to take a photo at the same time.  Those two learned about cameras today, too.

The next time I was at Tongue River Elementary, the counselor said they would love to have the “reading pups,” too.  I finally found for some nice black and tan stuffed GSDs to represent Hopeful and Lovely, plus I ordered another of these sable ones to represent Spirit.  Two of these three go to TRE every Monday morning for Reading Dog, taking turns.  The kids, of course, know all three, so we needed three “reading pups.”

2-13-23:  I presented Tongue River Elementary School with the three “reading pups.”  The principal was excited and insisted on taking a photo of Spirit with “her” pup so he could send a notice to all the teachers that the “reading pups” were available to use with students who were having a rough day or need reading practice.  When Hopeful came in for the last half of the Reading Dog sessions, one of office staff members took a photo of her with her “pup.”  Unfortunately, it was before any students arrived, so I had to hold it for the photo.  I’ll try to remember to get a photo of Lovely when she does Reading Dog at TRE in a week or so.

3-2-23 Update, Reading Dog with Holy Name School kindergarteners: 
Photo 1:  The kindergarteners recently had their first letter-writing lesson and used it to write letters to Spirit.  Spirit, of course, answered each one and included a trading card.  We gave them to Emily when we arrived today for Reading Dog.  After we left, it was snack time and Emily read Spirit’s letters to the kids.  The kids were thrilled and decided they need a photo for Spirit.  Next time that the class writes to Spirit, she and I will stay later and enjoy the letter-reading time.  Spirit will love more treats, too!
Photo 2:  This morning, one of the boys asked if he could sit on my lap while he read to Spirit. Emily happened to come out of the classroom (we set up in the class’s coat closet just outside tor room) and was so tickled that she grabbed her cell phone.  Of course the other boy had to pose, too!