2008 Willow Award
Once again this year, I have had the pleasure of reading the nominations for the Willow Award. All across our country there are whippets and their owners who are doing terrific therapy work with individuals with a variety of special needs or illnesses.
Each of dogs is having a profound impact on the people they visit and serve. It is wonderful to honor the memory of Willow with this award to a therapy team who is continuing to demonstrate the skill and compassion that is required to do therapy work.
The winner of the 2008 Willow Award goes to the team of Reggie and Diane Myers. Reggie and Diane work with Fidos For Freedom in Maryland, which is an organization that trains hearing, service, and therapy dogs. Reggie and Diane work in a reading program that is called DEAR, which stands for “Dogs Educating and Assisting Readers”. Reggie has had much success in working with a number of students who have reading problems and anxiety issues related to school. Some of these relationships have spanned more than a year when the students have had such a positive response to Reggie that they have returned to the program again the following year. Reggie demonstrates the ability to connect with the students in a calm and reassuring manner and serves as a perfect listener as the students work to improve their reading and comprehension skills.
Reggie and Diane also participate in visiting programs at a psychiatric unit and visiting the elderly at a rehabilitation hospital in addition to their extensive work in the DEAR program. A fellow volunteer in the program wrote these words about Reggie. “Reggie is very popular with the kids and they all run to greet him with enthusiasm. His ability to remain calm in any type of situation is wonderful and comforting to any child, even those who may be fearful of dogs. Reggie works very hard at being a wonderful therapy dog, not just with children but also with all people! He is a blessing to all who get to spend time with him.”
Many thanks to Reggie and Diane for their outstanding work as a therapy dog team and congratulations on being this year’s Willow Award recipient.
Holly C. Parker, CTRS, Coordinator
Animal Assisted Therapy Program
National Institutes of Health
Shaldra Mikater Jitterbug, JC
fire On a Clear Day MC and Can Ch Shaldra Mikater Topaz CD SC
By Ch Af Breeders: Kyle H Sibinovic, Candace Kane, and Suzanne Olmstead
DELTA Pet Partner- National Capital Therapy Dog
Fidos For Freedom Therapy Dog
Nominated for the 2008 Willow Award by Debbie Taylor
Fidos for Freedom therapy dog handler, and Delta Pet Partner
I have been working with Diane and Reggie Myers for over five years. We are volunteers together with an organization that trains hearing, service and therapy dogs. Diane and Reggie work in a reading program that is called DEAR- "dogs educating and assisting readers" and have impressed me with their ability to connect with the children that are selected for this program. Reggie is very popular with the kids and all the children run to greet him with enthusiasm. His ability to remain calm in any type of situation is wonderful and comforting to any child; even children who may be fearful of dogs. Once they get to know Reggie their fears are allayed. Reggie works very hard at being a wonderful therapy dog; not just with children but with all people! He is a blessing to all who get to spend time with him.
Says Diane “When I think of our work together, I think of the connection with the child. I see the eye contact and the smiles and laughter. These are kids that avoid books at all costs. To watch them eagerly enter the library each week and go directly to the book cart in search of reading material is a joy.” Whether it is at an adolescent psych unit or the library the youngsters tend to view Reggie as a role model. “I keep Reggie’s picture by my bed and when I am angry I remember Reggie and how well he can behave,, then so can I”, a teenager in a psych hospital once told Diane. Reggie received letters via email from his reading partners, and for one youngster the forged relationship has continued through several years.
Here are a few reading partners and their stories:
Thomas and Reggie - Spring 2005
Thomas was a special needs student in Diane’s grade classroom during the 2004-05 school year. After visiting her classroom during a Disability Awareness day, Reggie seemed focused on Thomas. Thomas approached Reggie as the two sat in the front of the room. The two connected when Reggie put his head on Thomas’ leg and allowed his ears to be stroked. It was a magic moment for Diane and Reggie. His parents had worried that he was afraid of dogs, and had been somewhat abusive towards a neighbor’s retriever. Thomas was asked to join the Saturday reading program and the two became year long buddies. The partners selected dog themed reading books, and together talked about the proper care of pets, and their feelings. Thomas walked into the library reading room one Saturday and announced that he was going to teach Reggie to “sit”, and “stay”. He took the leash and Reggie obliged. He was all smiles that day and went back to his teachers and was quite proud of the fact that he had trained Reggie to be a “Good Dog “.
Danielle and Reggie- Halloween 2005
. She also was shy and fearful of dogs when she joined the library program. As a matter of fact, we all had a difficult time convincing Danielle to even come into the library that first Saturday morning. Seeing her distress, the librarian who oversees the program knew Reggie’s calm nature and encouraged Danielle to meet him. She agreed to sit next to Diane, but wouldn’t look at Reggie or touch him. She chose a dog breed book to read, and told me about the dogs in her native country. She had a fear of large black dogs, which in her country could be feral and mean. They talked about how different Reggie and the other therapy dogs were. Slowly she put her hand on his head, but quickly took it away. She tried again and this time started to strike his ears gently. Everyone in the room was smiling, witnessing the magic that had just happened. By the end of the first session was walking Reggie around the room on leash, and left that morning with a smile on her face.
Troy and Reggie- January 2007
Troy was a third grader and came into the program in September 2006. Troy had experienced school anxiety at the beginning of the year. One day, in an effort to avoid reading, he ran from his classroom, and hid in the fifth grade bathroom. The entire school frantically searched until he was found. Upon joining the DEAR program, Troy immediately chose Reggie as his reading buddy during the “meet and greet”. Little did anyone know the relationship that was being forged that day. He and Diane talked about how it is OK to be afraid of new places and things; even how Reggie runs away and hides under the bed ( when he knows he is getting his toenails cut!). Diane communicates with Troy’s teacher regularly in order to help Troy reach his specific reading goals. She noticed that he often makes errors in his reading when he mistakes visually one word for another. For example, he may say”over” instead of “other”. Reggie, who is usually lying on a carpet square with his face towards the book, will spot the mistake and Diane will ask Reggie if he understood what Troy just read. Reggie usually “tell’s” her “No” and she has Troy go back and take a closer look at the word. Troy’s parents and teachers attended the end of the year “Graduation “ceremony in the spring of 2007. Troy proudly showed off Reggie and the books that they had read together. It was a teary moment when we all realized that Troy and Reggie would be saying “goodbye” . Over the summer Troy sent Reggie an email or two…..
Hi reggiehow are you? I am fine and I had my birthday last week Iam nine now.Icantwait tomeet Bonnie. I have your picture and calendar on my wall love, Troy
In the fall of 2007 it was decided by Troy’s teacher that the DEAR Program and Reggie had made such a difference for Troy behaviorally and academically, that he would return for the 2007-08 school year. Troy was usually the first to arrive and the first to get started reading. Passers by in the hallway often stopped and peeked in the room, as they entered the library. The sight of Reggie lying with his head in Troy’s lap while he read was heartwarming and magical. Troy continues to email Reggie……
Shinelle and Reggie- January 2007
Shinelle joined the FIDOS DEAR program in September 2006. She enjoyed reading books more than many of her classmates. She had great expression in her voice, but often forgot what she has read. Like Troy, she frequently mistook one word for another and would not pick up on her mistake and continues to read on. She chose a “Junie B Jones” book for them to read together. In order to appreciate the wonderful humor of these stories, the reader must pay attention and follow along quite closely. When she read a sentence and used an incorrect word, she usually looked down at Reggie and told him that she made a mistake and what the word actually is. After a few weeks, Shinelle became hooked on these stories, and even checked out two more in the series from her own school library. Diane gave Shinelle several Junie B Jones book as a graduation gift.
Reggie not only has worked his magic IN the library, but one occasion OUTSIDE the library. One Saturday last fall, as Diane and Reggie were heading home, and elderly lady with a walker, her daughter and three year old granddaughter peeked in to say “Hello”. Diane and Reggie followed them out, only to witness the elderly lady trip over the curb. Walker and human went flying into the street. Diane remained calm, as the FIDOS volunteers called for an ambulance. Reggie pulled Diane over to the woman’s granddaughter and insisted on staying with her until grandma was in the ambulance. He seemed to sense that she was scared and leaned up against her to keep her comforted and away from the street. We all agreed that the spontaneous and impromptu therapy dog magic is the most powerful. Reggie demonstrated it that day.
In addition to the reading program, Reggie visits psych units and the elderly at a rehab hospital. He always greets his friends with a snuggle and a tail wag. Reggie has also participated in Disability Awareness Days at several Howard County elementary schools.
Reggie’s current interests and hobbies include agility, daily five mile jogs with his humans (Diane and John), and lounging on the couch with his whippet housemates Sierra, Bonnie, and Alice and puppy Trib. Reggie has been included in the Fidos For Freedom service/therapy dog calendar for the last three years. This year, he and his housemate Bonnie made the month of March special. He is one adorable whippet and a blessing to know.
Reggie shares a hug with a friend at the library – Halloween 2005
All photos used with written permission. First names have been changed.