What a great question!  I can’t tell you how many times Cisco and I have been asked this question and how many different answers we have given people.  At the post office we tell people that Cisco will help students relax in anxious situations.  At Home Depot we tell people that Cisco will diffuse tension during rough student/teacher or student/teacher/parent conversations. At Trinity we tell colleagues that Cisco can do whatever they want him to do.  At home we fret over what Cisco will actually do when 400+ students fill the building in August.  On more than one occasion I have wondered if I over-sold both Ciscos’ and my ability to serve the community.  But when I question our ability I think of the moment that I realized he was more confident than me…

For those of you that are familiar with Trinity Episcopal School you know that every Friday morning starts in the gym with community chapel.  For those of you that have not had the pleasure of experiencing community chapel I can tell you that it is anything but dull.  We sing, we yell, we celebrate, we dance and we worship in a way that only a bunch of fearless kids (and a few nutty Chaplains) can inspire.  Well, the last community chapel of the year is called “Moving Up Day”.  The 8th graders have graduated and each grade-level is invited to move into their new space in the gym.  This includes a bunch of 4 and 5 year old kids that plan to attend Trinity as the newest Kindergarten class the following year.  This year Cisco was asked to join the chapel to “move up” as one of the newest faculty members.  As Cisco’s primary trainer I knew he was capable but he was (and still is) such a puppy!  He knew what to do but I was apprehensive about how he would handle the organized chaos that is “Moving Up” chapel on the last day of school (honestly, I always wonder how any of us will handle this chapel:)!).  Cisco put on his “Therapy Dog in Training” vest and we snuck in the back of the gym once chapel had started.  Let me tell you, it is not easy to sneak a 65lb puppy into a group of about 35 rising kindergarteners and their parents!  I took a deep breath, gave him a pat on the head and sat down next to a little girl and her mom.  The little girl is the youngest child in her family and I have taught her siblings for years.  Her mom smiled at us as we sat down and the young lady reached over to pet Cisco.  He licked her face and gave her a tail wag signaling that he was cool with her.  Phew, a wave of relief washed over me…maybe he was going to be OK!  The mother leaned over and said that the girl was refusing to go up with the other rising kindergarteners when they were called.  I told the girl that Cisco was new too and he was a little nervous.  I then asked her if she would go if Cisco went with her.  She gave us a non-committal nod and we focused our attention back on chapel.  As time marched on, the back of the gym was getting restless.  Imagine a bunch of pre-schoolers and a 9 month old puppy holding still for more than 5 minutes…but finally all the current students had moved into their new spots and it was the rising kindergartens turn. I had turned to greet another family, letting my attention wander, and the young girl tapped Cisco and said, “come on Cisco, it is our turn.” (She may not have actually said the words but she did get both my and his attention).  Cisco trotted right up next to her among the loud and welcoming cheers.  I looked down and she had one hand on his back and the other hand firmly placed in her mom’s hand.  Thinking about that moment simply gives me chills….

Sweet story, right?  Well, that is not the end of the story… Soon after we took our place among the rising kindergartners Cisco was introduced to the community.  We stepped out of the crowd and finally caught the attention of Patience (the dog whose job he was stepping in to).  She ran over to greet him in her proper and delicate way… a greeting he returned by pouncing on her and rolling around right next to the altar!  They were both entwined in his leash and the giggles and embarrassed scoffs from the middle school section could be heard by all!  Cisco was establishing his personality for all to see and that personality is big!

So when I am asked what a school dog does the answer is clear to me.  He does what humans can’t always do!  He comforts, encourages, entertains and loves unconditionally without invitation or demand.  No wonder Trinity wants him on staff…

~Jen and Cisco

Advertisements