I’m not sure how many of you know that before I came to dog training as a profession, I was an educator. I spent a handful of years assisting as a pre-k teacher, spent time student teaching in a an NYC elementary school and a NYC suburb school, then time as a 4-H educator for Cornell University. I loved my jobs working with kids–there is a reason I earned my Master’s in Education and wanted to make it my career. There are days when I absolutely miss my work with children–there’s something incredibly special about the work I got to do as an educator. I felt really privileged to be a guide in the lives of those children.
With that as context, I’ve been really emotional about the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. My heart hurts for everyone involved. I cannot even imagine the pain and the hurt and the struggles that the community is dealing with right now. There are moments I feel silly for feeling as emotional as I do about the situation but then I remember that I have a real sense of empathy and a real sense of how wonderful kids are and a love of being an educator. What happened in Newtown, while not directly affecting me, certainly affected things I care deeply about.
Feeling like there was nothing I could do to “Be the change I want to see” with regards to the situation was frustrating. I want to live in a better world–one where kids can go to school and remain safe, teachers can teach without fear, and people who NEED help can get access to it easily. Wanting to help but not knowing a meaningful task is something I’m sure many people are feeling at the moment.
A friend of mine mentioned that she is a member of a K9 Emergency Response Team that responds to emergencies like this with a group of therapy dogs (I would call them extreme therapy dogs as these are not just any therapy dogs). It got me thinking that one thing I can do to try to give back is to do some work and find a therapy dog organization that does not have a clause about raw feeding to get Rio certified as a therapy dog.
I think there are many Therapy Dogs out there that do not actually enjoy the work they do but seeing Rio with people of all walks of life makes me confident that he will not only excel at the work but also enjoy it. He’s an incredibly sensitive, affectionate, and subtle dog who definitely knows when and how to cuddle with people without being too obnoxious. Plus he’s so ridiculous looking that most people can’t help but smile looking at him.
Call it a New Year’s goal or what not, but getting Rio to become a therapy dog is going to be a priority next year and perhaps get involved with a K9 Emergency Response Team of sorts. That is certainly something I can do and something that can make a difference–even if it doesn’t have big-picture implications.
I can’t necessarily make the changes that I’d like to see in the big picture of things, but I can certainly BE the change I want to see.