2016: Year of the Cisco Puppies!

Greetings friends of Cisco (and friends of mine that I force to be friends of Cisco!),IMG_5498

Happy New Year!!  Although I am pretty good at posting picture on Instagram of the sweet school dog in action (or inaction) I realized that I had not updated his blog in a LONG time!  Sorry about that….

So, Cisco got the “call” during his holiday break from school to head up to the farm for breeding purposes.  Yes, the hardest working dog at Trinity Episcopal School has a second job that requires him to shed his polite Therapy Dog manners and be a DOG! Since Cisco and I work so closely I have come to understand (as much as a human can understand) his moods, his health and his personality.  I must say, there is nothing more heartwarming than watching his face light up when we arrive at Twilight Retrievers (A.K.A. The Farm).  He was born at the farm and has returned multiple times for training (Hunter is an AMAZING trainer as well as an accomplished breeder of beautiful dogs with great demeanors) and breeding. Below you can see the difference in his stance and demeanor:

On the way to the farm....

On the way to the farm….

On the farm

On the farm






See the change in that sweet face!! Now I get MANY comments about Cisco being “sad” in his pictures.  Cisco has a beautiful and BIG English Lab head that squishes up in the most delightfully cute way.  When his face is flat on the floor (one of his favorite napping poses) all that squishiness bunches up and he glances those big brown eyes up when I say his name to catch a photo.  The result is, in my humble opinion, super cute but some people think he look sad…honestly, he is the least “sad” dog I have ever met.  He just has what I like to call “Resting Sad Face”.

The farm is a smorgasbord of smells and activity that Cisco simply loves!  For a moment, he forgets how to heel, he forgets his name and he forgets that he works at a school with young children.  Simply put, his nature of being a dog takes over for a minute!  As the person who usually keeps him in check for his school work, I love seeing this side of my boy!  When I was training Cisco for his therapy work, I remember Hunter saying, “He will work hard for you but don’t forget to let him be a dog too!”  At the farm, he is a dog….a happy, stinky, pee-on-ever-post/tree/bush, love-struck DOG!

This time he is partnered to breed with a beautiful black lab named Lucy.  She is a sweet little girl and will help Cisco welcome his first full litter of pups in about 9-10 weeks!  Lucky for me, Cisco does not have to stay at the farm the whole time because there are a few (like over 400) people that need him in Charlotte.  Our science department has already started the genetic research while others are calculating probability of number of pups, color and gender.  In true Trinity form, we are embracing the teachable moment while patiently waiting for our four-legged friend to return!

We will keep you posted as we usher in 2016: The Year of the Cisco Puppies….


Jen (and Cisco from afar)


So much to share….


Really we have so much to share because we are SLACKER BLOGGERS!!  For that, I (the human at the keyboard) apologize.  I have found that I am really good at collecting memories via my handy-dandy iPhone.  I am also really good at sharing moments via Instagram (@tesschooldogcisco) but simply drop the blogging ball when it comes to getting it all together in one spot.  For those of you that know me, you understand that this is kinda my “mode of operation”.  You also know that I am on the eternal quest to be better organized, better prepared and better at most everything I try.  So, once again I will promise to be better at communicating about the awesomeness that is CISCO!!


When I sat down to update the blog I realized that my last post was one of an incredibly personal nature.  Maybe I just needed that post to sit for a while (see, I’m already starting to make excuses for my lack of blogging discipline!!) before I was ready to jump back in.  Maybe I just needed to jump in and sending Cisco off to the farm for his second round of breeding seemed like the appropriate place to start!  That is right, Cisco is at the farm but I will get back to that in a minute. First I need to bring you up to speed on the end of his 3rd year as the Trinity Episcopal School School Dog!

In true “champ” form, Cisco worked hard for his students.  He helped his nervous kids feel less nervous, he ran and played with his energetic kids, he patiently served as the object of scientific inquiry,  and he snoozed quietly (with the occasional loud snore) when his artist friends were hard at work.  One moment of glory that I will not soon forget is the moment one of his kindergarten friends who was SUPER scared of dogs finally gave him a little pet (so scared that Cisco had to spend most of the year kept away from her class)!!  It was a moment that I almost missed.  We were coming back from a mid-day potty break and our kindergarten friends were on the playground for afternoon recess.  If you haven’t witnessed Cisco arriving on campus when kids are at recess it is similar to the moment One Direction takes the stage!  Kids running from all corners screaming his name…CISCO CISCO CISCO!!!  On this particular day there were no less that 10 kindergarteners with at least one hand on him and even more firing questions about any and everything at me.  Cisco is a pro when this happens; he sits down or stands behind me and lets everyone get the love they need.  I was chatting with a few kids when one boy screamed, “She did it! She did it!”  then the whole group was jumping and cheering.  I turned around to see Cisco standing behind me with the one little girl in the whole school that had never touched him gently laying her hand on his hind quarters.  Honestly, I about cried when she looked up at me with her big brown eyes and smiled while her entire class was cheering for her.  This is what Cisco does…he gives so many people the chance to love, cheer, and overcome with ease and grace.


When summer finally arrived, Cisco enjoyed a few days of rest and relaxation then started to get a little anxious.  It is hard for him to go from interacting with hundreds of people a day to just his family.  We made little trips to Home Depot and PetsMart as well as visits to friends houses with dogs and kids to help keep him social.  Then it was time for our family vacation!!  I went to Boston a week before vacation to attend professional development at MassArt.  After a week, my family came to pick me up and we headed to our happy place, Nantucket!!


Cisco and his sister Madaket at MassArt

Cisco got to run on the beach, meet new doggie friends, and visit the beach from which his name originated.  All in all, a WONDERFUL week for the entire family (as well as the friends that visited).  Next thing we knew, it was time to get back in the car and start to LONG trek home (it includes a 2.5 hour ferry ride and a 14is hour drive from Mass to NC).  Here is a little peek at what the back seat of the car looked like….


As we drove through New York we got a call from Twilight Retrievers.  It was time for Cisco to visit the farm as Mossy had come into season.  So at 10:30 pm, Cisco got out of the car that he had been in since 6:30 that morning (with multiple pit stops, walks, and snack breaks!) at the farm.  Hunter and Amy were happy to see him and we were happy to see their new 6 month old little ones Wil and Liam (who were not heeding their mothers bedtime routines and up WAY past their bedtime).  After a few minutes I put him in his crate (really not his, one he was borrowing from Hunter so he was not super excited about it), told him I loved him and left him to work his magic.  He and Mossy have been successful thus far and Cisco will be home and rested before we go back to school on August 18th.

As always, thanks for following us and we will keep you up to date on puppies, a new school year and the general awesome life of Cisco!


Jen and Cisco

Warning: This post contains uncharacteristic emotional “stuff”


If you follow us regularly, you know that our posts are filled with the crazy and lovable antics of a big ol’ bunch of elementary and middle school kids and a block-headed yellow lab.  I want to warn you that although this post will have some beautiful nuggets of kid/dog wisdom, it is filled with some heavier content about the cycle of life and death, the choice that some women make and the reality that some are forced to face.  All in all, this post is a bit more about me (Jen Rankey) and my journey as a teacher, 40-something woman and dog mom.

As previous posts tell, Cisco went to the farm to breed a few months ago.  He spent about two weeks “working” that required him to miss the first few days of school.  The ensuing conversations with students were simply priceless.  From the first grader that asked if Cisco drove the tractor at the farm to the middle school boys that giggled uncontrollably when I mentioned that Cisco was “working” at the farm, each conversation brought forth the excitement towards the possibility of Cisco “siring” a litter of puppies!  Once we found out that Mossy was pregnant the teachable moments flew through the roof.  The middle school students learned all about genetics and probability as they researched puppy possibilities.  Punnett squares where filled, bulletin board were covered with predictions and genetic background and films were created documenting the excitement….we all had “puppy fever”!  I realized quickly that I had the most severe case of “puppy fever” and I simply couldn’t wait to see Cisco’s puppies!!

Here is were it gets a little personal….feel free to fast-forward if you would like (I do not mind at all!).  Mossy’s due date came and went.  I sent daily messages to the farm…Hunter and Amy are incredibly kind to put up with my anxious, puppy-fever induced questions.  In retrospect, I think I knew something was off but I talked myself into the fact that Mossy was waiting so that the pups would share a birthday with me.  Turns out, I was right on both accounts.  On October 21st, Mossy went into labor and delivered her smallest litter (two pups).  The pups made up for their small numbers with unusually large sizes.  So large that Mossy was unable to deliver them safely and both died.  By the grace of God, Hunter was there and could help Mossy so that she did not perish as well (she is happy and healthy).  A few days later I got a message from Amy stating that she had some good news and bad news, which would I like first….Bad news please.  She told me what happened.  My first question; “Is Mossy OK?” was answered with a relieved “Yes, she is fine.”  My second question; “What is the good news?”….”Your students were right in their genetic research, they were both Yellow”  At this point, my heart sunk.  For a brief moment I forgot that 450+ students (along with their teachers and parents) were waiting for this sad, sad news and that is when I started to cry.  The tears came for multiple reasons that seem to be a bit deeper than informing the community that Mossy lost the pups.

Here is the thing, I have never had the desire to have my own children.  I love kids, I have dedicated much of my adult life guiding kids through education and honestly enjoy kids more than most adults.  I remember moments as a child when I proudly stated that kids were not in my future.  Of course everyone said I would change my mind but it never happened.  This is very much counter-culture for a middle-class woman from a loving family.  My next step was to have kids, why else would I have been born a woman?  For a while, this became my “thing”…I was the revolutionary gal who chose not to follow social conventions.  Then it became my cross to bear…”no, I do not have kids.”  “Yes, I am physically capable of having children but I have chosen not to do so.” “No, it is not because I have not found the right partner. It is just not in the cards for me.” “No, I am not worried that I will not have anyone to care for me when I am old.” and so on and so forth.  This is a strange place to be personally but I can’t imagine I am alone.  I watch friends and loved ones that want nothing more than to have a child struggle due to a variety of issues and have pangs of guilt that I have made this seemingly selfish choice.  But then I wonder if this is a choice I am making or a situation that has chosen me.  Either way, it is an interesting spot for a 40 something female to deal with in certain circles in the US and it is something that has shaped who I am and what I believe today.  My lack of desire to have children did not translate to Cisco…I wanted him to create puppies BIG TIME!  Against most advice, he stayed in-tact so that he could breed come hell or high water.  The news of Mossy and Cisco’s pups hit me in a place that I wasn’t ready for….the maternal side of me, the side that cries at those damn ASPCA commercials and that can’t go the the Humane Society because it simply breaks my kid-less heart.

That is right, I do have a maternal side, I just mother dogs.  They are a part of my daily life and I cannot imagine my home without at least one fur-baby.  Now that Cisco has become my partner-in-crime at work, I can’t image teaching without a dog at my feet.  So the news of the pups took me down.  Some of you may be rolling your eyes and muttering, “seriously, they are DOGS…there are a million of them out there…you need to let it go.” and I do get it, dogs are just that, dogs and I am in no way, shape or form comparing puppies to humans.  I am just communicating the feelings that are spinning through my head.  I am a dog person and I will not apologize for that and I am not a mother to my own flesh and blood and I will not apologize for that either.  So, needless to say, this event has brought some “stuff” to the surface for me.

Now back to delivering this news to the Trinity Community.  Hmmm, how in the heck do you tell a bunch of kids between 5-14 years old that the puppies died?  Well, when you work in an Episcopal school, you ask the chaplains (Thank God I work in an Episcopal school)!  They devised a plan to deliver the news to the kids the following week and I just had to tell the faculty and then the parents the same day the kids found out.  The catch for me was the “next week” part.  I was asked about puppies at least 10 times every day and I am simply not good at “playing dumb” but I did my part until the news was delivered.  At that point I felt a weight lift and the beautiful Trinity community came to the rescue!  Kids cried, adults cried and Cisco snored!  Here is the thing, we assign these very human emotions to dogs that simply do not exist.  Cisco had NO IDEA why he was getting hugs, snuggles and new toys from the students (but he LOVED every minute of it).  Unlike his human counterparts that are destroyed with the loss of an offspring, dogs are not wired that way and I can’t help but be a little jealous.  Cisco’s heart was not heavy like mine, Cisco didn’t question what happened to the puppies like his student friends and Cisco didn’t skip Greet the Week because he couldn’t face the fact that the puppies were gone.  Cisco continued to serve his students by allowing them to stroke his big block-head while asking questions about life and death that are just easier to deal with when it is a puppy that they never met.  They asked questions that they simply can’t ask when a human dies, questions that made me think on a very different level and made me realize that death is something that we really avoid talking through with kids.  I think it may be because we don’t have the answers and we don’t like saying “I don’t know” to questioning kids.  Their questions ranged from very pragmatic to faith-based inquiry.  All in all, this moment, much like the moment of potential puppies, became a rich and beautiful teachable moment.  Cisco will head to the farm to “work” again soon and we (the TES community) will grab on to another teachable moment without fear of potential loss.


Peace, love and puppies,


Seriously, how cool is this?!?!?

So yesterday was Mossy’s due date and like all good dogs, she is working on her own schedule!  As Cisco snored away his sunday morning in Charlotte, Mossy (still pregnant) snored hers away on the front porch at the farm…two peas in a pod!

As I shared before, Cisco’s first breeding foray would produce some awesome science inquiry.  Well, here is what one science class did to show their learning…AMAZING!!

What can I say, we are supremely blessed to work with such amazing teachers and students every day.

Peace, love and genetics,

Jen and Cisco

Still working….


Just a quick update…the boy is STILL working at the farm!!  I believe Mossy really likes his company:).  There is a possibility that he will be introduced to Raisin (a beautiful black female) before he comes home.  It has been nothing short of weird to start the school year without him and my house is just a bit too quiet without his silly antics and loud snoring but a boys gotta work, right?

Although we have not gotten official word that Mossy is pregnant, the science investigations will start this week!  Genetics and Statistics are ripe subjects when it comes to dog breeding so our budding Middle School scientists (with the help of our amazing science teachers) will explore the upcoming possibilities.

On the social/emotional front, it has been interesting explaining that he may be breeding with two females to our older students.  I keep reminding the kids that dogs are different than people and that he is not married to Mossy but it still brings about a fair amount of interesting conversation.

One of my favorite stories came last week at the hands of two first grade students.  They stopped me in the hall and asked where Cisco was.  I told them that he was working at a farm with his friend Hunter this week.  You could see the wheels turning…the little girl asked what work he did at the farm.  My answer, “He just helps out.”  Her: “doing what?  Seriously, what kind of work does he do at the farm Ms. Rankey?”  I must confess, I was starting to sweat a bit….I am happy to share this information with older students as they can understand a bit more but 1st graders are YOUNG!  Luckily, the first grade boy looked at me with the most earnest gaze and said, “He works on the farm?  Does he ride a horse or does he drive the tractor?”  I smiled and said, “No, he herds the sheep and goats!”  We all laughed and the young girls curiosity was quelled with the mental image of her beloved school dog driving a tractor!  

We miss the big guy terrible at Trinity but are excited about the fact that the world will be graced with more little Cisco’s soon!

PUPPIES PUPPIES PUPPIES!! Peace like puppy breath……

Jen and Cisco (from afar)

Exciting News!


As summer break comes to a close, Cisco is super-excited to start his 3rd year as the Trinity Episcopal School school dog.  He got a bath, washed all his work uniforms (an abundance of bandanas) and was ready to go.  Then he got a call Saturday afternoon that he was needed for his second job.  I bet you didn’t even know Cisco had a second job….well, he does but it is a quiet job that he had not officially started yet.  Cisco is one of the breeding males for Twilight Retrievers and since he just turned 3 he was “called up” to carry on his wonderful blood-line (he is breeding with Mossy.  Check her out on the Twilight Retrievers website).

So Sunday morning we drove up to the farm and Cisco started this new work, which will take him at least a week to accomplish.  Although I am SO excited about this I am a little sad too.  Due to the timing, Cisco will miss the first week of his 3rd year as school dog:(. As I drove in to school this morning for Wildcat Roundup I had the nagging feeling I had left something at home that I needed.  I checked my bag, my pockets, and the back seat of the car before I realized that I was missing Cisco.  I rarely drive to Trinity without him in the back of the car and when I arrive on campus without him, EVERYONE notices!

I will keep you posted as to his progress on the farm and will regale you with funny stories of explaining his absence to 400+ students this week:).  Just to let you know, my “go to” line is, “Cisco is working on his farm this week.  He will be back next week!” but I can already hear the questions….wish me luck!

Peace, love and PUPPIES,


Happy Valentines Day


This handsome man wants to wish all his friends a Happy Valentines Day!  Although he is excited for VDay, he is more excited that the sun is shining and melting away some of the snow and ice that accumulated over the past few days.  We are on snow day #3 and will not return to school until Tuesday…we have walked and played in the snow, we have shoveled and swept cars and walkways and now we are ready for our lovely Charlotte weather to return:).

The #snOMG storm (otherwise known as PAX) destroyed WOW week at Trinity.  Week withOut Walls is a way for 5-8 grade students to have genuine learning experiences outside of the classroom.  It is a week that everyone looks forward to each year.  Everyone except Mother Nature this year!  Teachers had planned, students were stoked and Cisco was ready to race along with my Amazing Race group but alas, we instead spent the remainder of the week at home.  I really think it was one of the few times that teachers and students alike we not happy to have a snow day (or 3) at Trinity.

So Cisco asked me if I would share his hipster social media awesomeness…not only does he blog…he also has an Instagram!  Fancy, I know!!  He requests that you follow him @tesschooldogcisco.  I recently had a conversation with friends about the evolution of social media.  Someone said, “I like Instagram more than FaceBook because there aren’t all the words and stuff.”  Now I am an artist that finds their joy in all things visual but I am also SURE that well crafted words can paint a picture that no camera can capture.  Cisco and I will do both…capture moments digitally and crafting stories with words.  I must say, the boy is pretty darn cute and following his Instagram will give you a little peak into his school environment as well as vids and shots of him relaxing at home.

Go to the ‘gram and follow Cisco @tesschooldogcisco.  Have a great weekend!

Candy hearts and dog bones,

Jen and Cisco

Happy New Year


As January 6th rolled around, Cisco went back to work after two weeks of rest, relaxation and fun with new friends (I spent a week on a boat in the British Virgin Islands and Cisco spent that week with his new pet-sitter, conning him into believing that he gets to play every minutes of every day, he gets to sleep in the bed…actually, he gets to sleep on your pillow, leaving you to fend for your own night time comfort, and finally that he gets to eat when he wants, not on your silly human schedule!).

By 10 am on our first day back, Cisco wandered around the art room wearing some paint and chalk, signaling that we were officially back to work! As it is with school life, day one quickly turned to the month of January.  Before we knew it January, 2014 was in the books.  Before we officially turn the page to February we wanted to share some happenings from January.

IMG_3997Patience came to visit!

The morning of January 17th, my phone buzzed with the arrival of a text message at about 7:30 am.  “Heads up. Patience and I are headed to chapel this morning:-)”… Patience is Cisco’s predecessor and left some big paw prints for him to fill.  Additionally, Patience is one of Cisco’s FAVORITE dog friends. She is a bit older than him (about 7 months) and honestly, a bit more mature than him!  When they are playing, Patience is the one to look at him and say, “seriously dude….that is enough!” and he simply slams his big front paws down with his booty up in the air and says, “seriously lady….it is never enough!!” He loves Patience and she loves him but they had never really “worked” together.  I knew it was not going to work if he slipped into “play” mode when he saw Patience…I needed him to stay in “work” mode.  I commanded him to “work” as we entered the gym but in the back of my head I wondered if my command would override his “doggie language” when he saw he friend.  Like most Fridays, he was greeted with by no less that 20 eager human friends (both child and adult).  He stood dutifully by me, letting each new hand give him a pat.  He was so deep in “work” mode that he had not even noticed Patience…she spied him first! Side-bar: Cisco is a leash-trained school dog which means when we are out of the art room (or off the 3rd floor), he is on his leash.  Patience is a free-range school dog which means she is roams within her established boundaries.  Patience came bounding over to greet her friend and Cisco lit up like a Christmas tree.  With a group of no less that 15 students surrounding them, these two “working” dogs greeted one another with sniffs, licks, and playful paw swats.  But guess what…Cisco stayed in “work” mode!  He greeted his dog friend then he turned to his students and let them continue to greet him.   I breathed a sigh of relief….my boy knew what his job was, knew what mode he was in and he rocked it!  We went over and spent the rest of chapel with Patience and about 5 students that got to have hands on not one but two school dogs that morning!  After Chapel, Patience came upstairs to the art room and hung out with Cisco and a 3rd grade class until she had to go to her new job, being the school dog at The Bilingual Preschool in Charlotte.

The next week at Chapel, Cisco was called to work big time!  You may remember that Cisco has been working with a student who has a very deep fear of dogs.  This student has been quietly working with Cisco to move the fear to a manageable place so that it does not overcome him when he is out in the world.  Both student and Cisco have made incredible strides in the few months they have been working together and Friday, January 24th they broke through to a new level of comfort and joy.  The boys classroom teacher asked if Cisco could sit with the class at Chapel.  This was something that had been on my mind for a while but I had not asked the student or teacher if they were willing to take this leap.  I am beyond grateful that the classroom teacher asked that morning, proving that everyone (even the school dog) needs a little reminder now and then!  Well, Cisco was happy to sit on the floor with this class and he quickly found himself lying on the hardwood with no less that 10 little hands finding their way to any part of his furry body they could reach.  His scared friend sat on the opposite side, using me as the shield between him and Cisco.  His hand would occasionally wander over to give Cisco a quick pet but he continued to keep me as his buffer.  As Chapel went on, the boy became more and more confident.  You could almost fell the worry and anxiety melt away as he inched closer and closer to Cisco.  Soon enough, my shield was no longer necessary and as Cisco rearranged himself to a new cool spot of the floor, the boy who could not be in the same room as Cisco in August found himself sitting right next to him without a buffer, reaching a hand out to touch his soft ears, big head and squishy belly.  I honestly have no photographic documentation of this event because I forgot my phone that morning (which really never happens!).  In retrospect, I think it was Divine intervention.  The moment was not one to be captured visually, it was one to be captured mentally.  It was a moment that brought joy and love.  It was a moment that all the worry, anxiety and unhappiness in the world melted away and all that was there was a boy and a dog! I can honestly say that I have no idea what the biblical message was during that particular Chapel service and I’m pretty sure that my young scared friend can’t tell you either but the presence of God was so palpable that it is a Chapel service I will not soon forget.

lunarnewyear_(26_of_69) lunarnewyear_(38_of_69) lunarnewyear_(56_of_69)

The next week we found ourselves celebrating the Lunar New Year with an amazing presentation of the Dragon and Lion Dance.  The day started like any other with Cisco entering the gym to get his usual welcome from both students and adults.  We found our way to the bleachers and he took his normal spot at my feet to lazily snooze on the cool hardwood floor.  With the scent of some popcorn or chip left in the bleachers from an earlier basketball game, Cisco climbed up into the first level and snuggled down behind me.  Knowing that his ears are WAY more sensitive then mine, I warned the young girl sitting next to me that when the guy hit the drum to start the Lunar New Year Dance, Cisco would probably jump a bit.  With that, the big drum started rhythmically beating and Cisco jumped up with his paws on the bleacher next to me to see what the heck was going on!  What he saw was a group of about 7 people dressed in dragon costumes performing for the community. If you have not had the chance to see a Dragon dance for the Lunar New Year you should put it on your bucket list…it was pretty darn cool.  Cisco watched on with amazement and confusion…. The drum was loud and his attention was on high alert.  He wanted to go investigate BAD….it took about three of us to keep him in the bleachers while the dancers got closer and closer.  Their costumes were filled with feathers, pompoms, and glittery fabric that would be SO fun for him to pull apart.  He wanted to dance along-side the performers, jumping and nipping at the amazing costumes but he stayed put (with the help of some strong arms).  He wanted to “sing” along with the beating drum but instead just gave a few little barks.  Most of the time he just watched the performers with the same amazed joy and wonder as his Kindergarten friends.  As the performance concluded, Cisco again found a cool spot on the hardwood floor and slipped into his first nap of the day filled with dreams of dragon dances that included him finally ripping all the fringe off the beautiful costumes!

We are sure that February will bring new and exciting adventures to share.  Cisco and I can not express our gratitude properly to the school we love so.  What we can do is find the beautiful moments and capture them in our heats and minds to share with the world.  SO with love and admiration, we welcome 2014 and look forward to every moment!  Although it is officially the Year of the Horse, in our hearts it is ALWAYS the year of the big yellow DOG!

Much love,

Jen and Cisco


Cisco, Art, and Love


Sometimes I wonder if Cisco loves his job as much as I love him having his job.  On more than one occasion I have said that I have the greatest job ever…I am an art teacher that takes her dog to school!  Sounds simple but running the art department and running the school dog department can get hectic at times.  Since my days are filled with classes and other school-related activities sometimes Cisco just “chills” in the art room while I go off to meetings and such.  It has become his second home (and like many teachers, sometimes he feels like he spends more time in that classroom than his actual home!).  He is the art dog and he takes that seriously.  He lays under tables while kids are exploring repetition through work inspired by Jim Dine, he finds a comfy spot on the edge of a large-scale doodle project that multiple 8th graders are working on and he relaxes right in the middle of the students working on still-life drawings.

He took his “art dog” job to a new level as the Trinity community celebrated International Dot Day in September.  This celebration is based on the Peter H. Reynolds book “The Dot”.  If you have not read this masterpiece you simply need to!  It is an amazing picture book about a young art student who is struggling to find her artistic voice.  I ADORE this story and have used it as inspiration for the art program for years so you can imagine my joy when I discovered an international celebration of “The Dot”.  I signed Trinity up and then decided that a Dot DAY was simply not enough…we needed a Dot WEEK.  We put units and lessons in-process on hold and the entire K-8 student body created DOTS (drawings, paintings, mosaics, sculptures…you name it, we made it!).  The young Kindergartners got to experience the story for the first time while the seasoned 8th graders moaned, “not that story again!” while secretly LOVING the long lost read-aloud.  The words “make a mark” filtered through the halls and the faculty and staff even got in on the action by making “Ish” drawing during the wednesday faculty meeting.  By the way, “Ish” is another FABULOUS picture book by Mr. Reynolds that goes hand-in-hand with “The Dot”.

To kick off the week, Cisco used his Greet the Week (monday morning community meeting) time to share the activities of the upcoming week to the students.  To get everyone excited, he wore a few hand-painted dots on his back!  With the patience of a saint, he sat still as I applied layers of washable tempera paint to his beautiful fur.  As he trotted down the hall the kids couldn’t help but squeal with excitement at his “new do”.  I honestly had no idea that painting a dot on his back would create such a buzz for our Dot Week but it did!  As the week moved on students would seek him out to see what color his dot was each day.  Classes got to vote on the color for the next day and a few middle schoolers even got to paint the dot on morning.  By Friday, he rocked the color wheel…6 DOTS!!!  The kids loved it (and every one of them knew that he was wearing the primary and secondary colors in the correct order!).  Dot Week was a raving success and the results still adorn the hallways in the school…it is just too happy and inspirational to take down! First grade “Ish” drawings reside proudly next to beautiful crafted fifth grade Dot mosaics made with bottle caps.  A month later I still have students ask where Cisco’s dot is…it had a lasting effect for sure!

This week illustrates how amazing my job is and how lucky I am to teach within such an amazing community.  Cisco stood next to me every day as I painted his fur and passed on my passion for art to anyone who would listen.  I urged everyone to read the book then I actually recorded my own voice reading the book and sent it to the faculty and staff, forcing them to understand the power a story can hold.  In the story, the young art student battles the “blank page”, saying, “I just can’t draw!”.  How many times in our lives do we have this feeling…”I just can’t….”?  Students are pushed to conquer the “blank page” in more ways than many adults can understand.  The “blank page” is the unknown and that scares the heck out of most people.  The “blank page” is a new job, a new relationship or an unexpected change of scenery and the “blank page” is simply scary.  I see Cisco as my “blank page” sometimes, waiting for me to “make a mark”.  He teaches me something new about myself and the world every single day.  He comforts when necessary and seems to know exactly when to bring you one of his favorite toys with a loving invitation to play.  He listens, challenges, loves, and entertains every person he meets but has a special place in his heart for the students he works with every day.  So when your “blank page” gets a little to scary remember Cisco and go out there and “make a mark”!


Jen and Cisco

P.S. Check out Peter H. Reynolds website…http://www.peterhreynolds.com/

Holy routine!

20130324-182518.jpg Cisco at our Palm Sunday community chapel last spring

In addition to attending classes with over 420 students a week, Cisco follows the weekly routine of an Episcopal school.  He follows a “holy” routine that starts on Monday morning.  The entire school gathers in the courtyard to “Greet the Week”.  Although this gathering is a great way to welcome a new week and celebrate the accomplishments of students and teachers alike, it also serves as our first look at the liturgical message of the week.  We listen to the weekly reading, hear a prayer and then join in to sing the Lords Prayer.  Cisco rarely misses a Greet the Week and loves sharing a weekly factoid before the community hears the Word.

Occasionally, Cisco finds himself attending K-2, 3-5 or middle school chapel throughout the week.  But his favorite “Holy routine” happens Friday morning.  The entire community (students and parents) gather in the gym for Community Chapel. IMG_2701 Like usual, Cisco is greeted as if a rock star has entered the gym…sometimes the parents are more excited than the kids to see him!  As the clock nears 8 am he finds his seat, usually in the front row of the bleachers allowing me to keep my trainer position while he sprawls out on the cool wood floor.  Although he does not sing (he has been known to chime in on occasion with a bark) or recite prayers, he participates when he can.  One of the first chapels this year he got his leash blessed while the students and teacher got their backpacks blessed, receiving the same beaded bauble that adorns the many backpacks in the building.  A week later, he accompanied me in the communion line.  Being the good boy he is, he just laid down at my feet, moving only when I told him as we navigated the line.  As we approached Fr. Jacob (the schools chaplain) I slipped his leash on my wrist so I could cup my hands to receive the bread.  As I turned to dip in the wine I heard Fr. Jacob say “The body of Christ” again and I realized he was feeding Cisco!  In the Episcopal tradition, all are invited to “feast” and that Friday, “all” included the beloved school dog!  I did have to make a call when the 8th grade student serving wine knelt down to let Cisco partake in the wine…he did NOT lap out of the chalice:).

At chapel last week Cisco found himself sitting in the front row of the middle school section of the gym.  He and I were positioned at the stairs leading to the upper bleachers which is usually not the best place because Cisco wants to climb up and greet all his friends.  I decided to let it ride in that position and Cisco just plopped down to stare at the Kindergartners on the floor.  Such a good boy…then he realized that his middle school friends were right behind him so up he went.  I gave his leash a little slack and he squeezed between rows two up from the front.  The students were quietly giggling as he gave them sweet kisses and wagged his tail rhythmically agains the loud plastic bleachers.  He backed himself up a bit and plopped down at the feet of two boys who gave him some love as the scripture was being delivered.  The two girls in front of Cisco were also reaching back to give some love when Cisco figured something out…if he left his body at the feet of the boys and rested his head on the seat between the two girls he could get the best of both worlds!  So for about 10 minutes he did just that, big squishy head between the two girls and big squishy body in front of the two boys which gave him a total of 4 sets of hands delivering tender pets and scratches.  When I turned around to see what he was doing I couldn’t help but tear up.  Seriously, I got a tear in my eye because it was the sweetest thing I had seen in a while…this amazingly unconditional love between sometimes surly teenagers and a dog!  I usually have my phone in my pocket, allowing me to capture these moments with a camera but there was some divine intervention that made me forget my phone that morning.  I think the moment was meant to be a fleeting one, like so many moments of unconditional love.  Not fleeting in that it will soon cease to exist but rather fleeting in that the moments are so quiet and reverent that they need to be experienced in person rather than on film.


Cisco is a blessing to the Trinity community and the community is a blessing to him!  I believe they have been called to one another!

Blessing and Tail-wags,

Jen and Cisco

P.S.  Next post will be about Dot Day/Week!  Teaser….Cisco wears a DOT every day of the week!  Seriously, he is a GOOD DOG!