Kids can pretend to be teachers and ask the dogs questions. They end up answering for them because, well, dogs don't talk. It's all quite hilarious. Have you ever heard a kid explain to a dog "what" is going on in a story?
Kids get to practice their social skills on the dogs. Dogs serve as a "buffer" between the people in the environment and the kids who are unsure of themselves. The students evidence an improved attitude toward school.
Dogs are wonderful social role models. They aren't (usually) shy, are friendly, have good "people" skills and they are stress reducers because they're not judgmental.
Kids can "rent" a dog's neurology. If a dog is calm, so is the kid. Perfect fit. Aggression and conflict is reduced in the classroom with a dog.
On many occasions, the police department would bring in inmates from juvenile correctional placements (using all of those terms very loosely). They would arrive in orange jumpsuits and they were shackled to chains around their waist. Their wrists were handcuffed and connected to their waist and they had chains around their legs. Always a sad sight, but they were dangerous people who had already committed violent crimes during their short time here on earth. They would walk in and their "attendant" would sit in the waiting room. Mostly what I would hear was, "F**k this, I ain't gonna be tested by nobody" or something to that effect.
Murphy would make his presence known and his disapproval of the tone being directed at his mother, by making a low growling, "Want some of this? voice. The inmate immediately became a kid again, falling directly onto the floor. If you were on the floor, you belonged to Murphy. He was a boxer with a huge chest, floppy-over silky ears and a tiny tail that wagged like crazy. We got him from the shelter.
After a period of time of them rolling around the floor, I would interject and introduce myself. It never, ever, ever failed. Murphy would lay on the floor under the testing table and on top of the kids' feet. Their bodies could be seen moving ever so slightly above the table top as they stroked his back or belly with their toes. He redeemed them from whatever dark place they were in.
Sometimes, I'd ask them a question and they'd look at Murphy and I'd tease them about asking him for help. Laughter was always plentiful and heartbreaking when it was time to go, especially on the last day.
These hardened "wanna-be" gangstas were nothing of the kind and it wasn't lost on their "attendant", either. Dogs are magical and very healing.
When my "guests" left, I would always say to myself, "If only..."
Join me on Facebook at Dr. Claudia McCulloch