Hearst & Buzz Are Back!
"Reading with Rover" therapy dog program returns to Mt. Pleasant-Blythedale School
Last week the Mt. Pleasant-Blythedale School at Blythedale Children’s Hospital welcomed back some four-legged friends as part of the annual “Reading with Rover” therapy dog program. Students and staff opened up their hearts, classrooms and books with the help of two friendly canine reading companions - 12-year-old Labrador/Golden Retriever mix breed dog “Hearst” and two-year-old Belgian Tervuren dog “Buzz”. For nearly 10 years the program has helped students – inpatients and Day Hospital patients at the Hospital – with reading skills and reinforcement, and social interaction.
As the dynamic doggie duo nuzzled and played with kindergartners, as well as fourth and fifth graders during their recent visit, one student said the experience really means a lot to him. “I like reading to the dog because it makes me feel calm,” said fourth grader Zacherius while petting his new furry friend, Buzz. “It also helps me test my reading skills and he’s really fluffy”
The teachers and administrators are also big supporters of this program. It not only serves as an educational tool but also motivation for increased class participation. Both therapy dogs can also be integrated into the day’s curriculum - students can give the dog a command as a reward for increased class involvement and petting the pooches also decreases anxiety levels amongst students.
Patti Murphy, longtime Blythedale volunteer and “Reading with Rover” co-founder, says the dogs can serve as a welcome distraction for students battling serious medical issues. “They are learning, relaxing and getting heathier,” she said. “It’s just warm and inviting, kind of like home. This is very rewarding for all of us,” added Patti while recalling the priceless moments and close relationships formed between the students, and Buzz and Hearst.
The “Reading with Rover” therapy dog program is held once a week at the Mt. Pleasant-Blythedale School throughout the year.
As New York’s only freestanding, specialty children’s hospital, Blythedale is dedicated to improving the health and quality of life of children with medical complexity, through superb multi-disciplinary patient care, teaching, research, and advocacy programs. Blythedale’s board-certified physicians, nurses, and other clinical staff (social workers, respiratory therapists, clinical pharmacists, Child Life specialists, etc.) and New York State’s largest hospital-based pediatric therapy department work together to provide intensive and innovative multi-disciplinary clinical and therapeutic care to help children achieve their medical and rehabilitative goals for independent living, and return to their communities. Blythedale is also the only Hospital in New York State with its own, on-site public school district.
For more information about Blythedale Children’s Hospital, visit www.blythedale.org.