Learn with Benzy, the golden retriever
CARVER – Golden retriever Benzy, the pet therapy dog in training, joins a reading lesson for fifth graders.
Eventually he will listen while the children who are uncomfortable reading or who are unsure of their reading sit down and read to him with the main Ruby Maestas in the next room.
Benzy will have to wear his training vest as he works with the kids further in the certification process, but at this point the kids can pet him while Maestas introduces him to the school community while continuing their training.
Maestas said young Benzy’s goal is to provide a pleasant, calming and positive environment as an integral part of the Carver Elementary School family.
“It feels even more like family with him,” she said. “The goal is to help kids who are going through a very difficult time, and he’s already helped a lot of kids make the transition in the morning.”
Benzy is a blessing to Maestas in more than one way, and his name says it all.
“I didn’t expect to have a dog, but when it happened it was like a blessing, because I was into it, I was ready for it,” she said. “Benzy is my version of the blessing in Portuguese, but Benzy in Hebrew is a healer, and Benzy’s goal is to be a therapy dog. “
She also felt that the name was catchy, that it would be clear when called to remind it, and that it would be easier for the students to learn. She said the key to training for both of them is to keep training here and there throughout the day and offering positive reinforcement. She said he aimed to please.
Training courses for students too
Maestas also teaches the few students who work with him the need to be clear with the messages they send him and to use an authoritative but calm voice. When he is about to enter a room, the students tell him to sit at the door.
As for the students who have not spent time with him, they will have to learn to approach him as they do with any dog, first by asking him.
“It was a great learning opportunity for everyone, and it’s only really started,” said Maestas. “We are only in December and we started this in September. It has actually evolved quite well. We wanted him to evolve almost naturally and not force it on anyone.
It turned out that she didn’t have to worry about it. She said the teachers all ask when Benzy can join them in their classes. She always needs to be with him, and he can go just about anywhere she goes. She said everyone in the office had kissed her.
Maestas said it was especially evident during the Thanksgiving break that he was determined to wake up and go to school, which fits his goal of increasing interaction with students. He also participates in parents’ meetings.
She said he’s been a positive influence, and it doesn’t hurt that she estimates that around 80 percent of staff and children have pets in the home.
“The school climate as a whole has been very positive,” she said.
Carver resident Sue Murphy Smith’s vision of raising her dogs to be comfort / therapy dogs was developed about five years ago, when a father whose son had nonverbal autism brought him down. asked one on the advice of his doctor. He bought his dog, Murphy, and after working together his son is now verbal.
“It was so awesome to me that I wanted to help more kids,” Smith said.
She also worked in a school system for around 20 years, both on staff at Carver High and Plymouth, and said she had seen students struggle and knew a dog could make them smile.
“I saw how kids react to my dogs, that’s how my vision started to have one as a comfort / therapy dog in the school system,” she said.
Her niece and her niece’s husband raise German Shepherds, and he trained one of their dogs to serve in the Marshfield school system. He answered many of his questions and he rated the scope, which led to Smith choosing one of the two he recommended to Maestas. He was born on April 10.
Smith said she was glad he was so close that she could visit him.
“This one was a very special dog to me,” she said. “There is always a line that I gravitate towards in the staff, and it is towards him that I gravitate. He was the smallest and had a rough time at first, I had to supplement, weigh him everyday so he’s special to me.
Smith started raising golden retrievers as pets about 25 years ago after she found herself picking out a golden female and found herself at the bottom of a bunch of puppies. The owner suggested that she contact him when her daughter, Belle, was around 2 years old to raise her with her dog, Harley.
When she was first introduced to English creams like Benzy, she found them to be really relaxed as well as smaller and squarer compared to American gold. She still didn’t expect Milo, the masculine custard she chose, to be as laid back as him and even take him to her vet.
Her dogs have a limited registration with the American Kennel Club to protect her breeding line, and she imports her dogs from a breeder in Serbia.
It was the end of the school year weekend when Maestas picked up Benzy from Smith after trying to figure out how it would all work. It has been a very exciting time for Maestas, her husband Gary, the former superintendent of Plymouth Public Schools, and her son.
She had wanted a guidance staff member or administrator to take on the role of master so that Benzy could be a shared school dog, but she didn’t want to lose the opportunity to have him at Carver and intervene before the window is closed. She also had the coming summer to train.
She found a local master dog trainer in Marion just over a mile from her home. She knew, speaking to other schools, counselors, and organizations, that this was going to be a process and became even more enthusiastic when Smith walked her through it. She even learned where she shouldn’t take him.
The trainer, Jeanie Crosby of Jeanie’s Education Center of Marion, interviewed Maestas at her home to make sure she and Gary were ready for Benzy and started working with her the week she got him after giving him some instructions on how to set up their house and garden. to prepare him for success.
AKC-certified assessor with a good reputation for evaluating dogs to determine if they can be therapy dogs and assistance dogs, Crosby can also help make Benzy a reading dog.
Benzy was 11 weeks old when he started training. He took private lessons the first few weeks and began to learn the basics of crate training, the bathroom and obedience. He is also groomed regularly as part of the process, so he is presentable to children every day.
Training and grooming are weekly on Tuesday evenings. In his lessons he is with two model dogs who are 4 and 7 year old Goldens and sets him by example while he watches. Benzy needs to learn to be relaxed and calm around children under all circumstances.
It has already been tested by fire alarms at Carver Elementary School. The first alarm was scheduled to have her placed near the front door exit, and he just followed the instructions on two unexpected fire alarm calls.
They do not visit classes with allergic children.
Maestas learns alongside Benzy. He also learns to board the school bus carefully, as there may be times when Maestas needs him to get on the bus with a child.
Benzy is in the classrooms every day, so the kids know what to do when he walks into the room. They should keep doing what they are doing while he gets comfortable and she watches the class. She and Benzy also make regular visits during the morning reunion so they can get to know him.
Maestas predicts that Benzy will be around 2-3 years old when he receives his pet therapy certificate. He needs to have 300 hours of training for certification, so she keeps a daily log of all training.
He doesn’t miss a class and also has an almost perfect attendance at people’s schools.
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