Nelson – Teacher’s Aide
DFD’s first Program Assistance Dog
Nelson is a two-year-old Black Labrador who came to us from Guide Dogs for the Blind. He had a sensitive trachea and could not become a Guide Dog. Upon arriving at DFD, he rapidly became one of the favorite dogs of everyone with his loving, happy-go-lucky attitude and his desire to please. Nelson entered our Program Assistance Dog training and was matched with Janet V., a teacher of students with special needs. Dogs going into this training must be totally “unflappable” and able to remain totally calm regardless of what is happening around them. That was Nelson! Obviously, Nelson also had to LOVE children, and he did. Janet has nine middle school age students, all of whom have special needs. Nelson accompanies her to school every day. Among other things, Nelson’s trainer taught him to “go touch.” When he is with the students and one of them is upset or distracted, Nelson goes to the child and touches him/her with his nose to comfort and help refocus the child, enabling the student to continue with the assignment. Janet incorporates Nelson into her lessons, and he helps motivate the students to read, do their assignments, and focus. Nelson is also used as a reward; when a student has done something well, that student is able to spend a few minutes petting and playing with Nelson. Each morning Nelson greets each student, and he is helping to motivate the students to communicate. Nelson will be benefitting students in Janet’s classes for many years to come, helping these children to learn, grow, and develop in spite of their special needs.