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Open Doors - Winter 2011

SSD Jasmine II Goes To School

Jasmine looks at handler

SSD Jasmine II is a facility dog at Mt. Morris Central School in western New York. Her handler is Gina Battaglia, LCSW-R, School Social Worker. Jasmine primarily works in a BOCES classroom (BOCES is the equivalent of Pennsylvania's Intermediate Units, providing services for students with special needs). Here are a few of Gina's stories:

Please tell everyone all is well with SSD Jasmine II! She had a remarkable first day of work/school! She was amazing with the kids. Everyone just loves her! She worked her magic and was able to get a stubborn and very angry boy to walk happily to his gym class, introduce her to his peers and join in the soccer game (with Jasmine, of course!). Then, she walked in the classroom, walked over to a boy who was crying because he didn't earn enough points for free time, licked his face, made him laugh and helped him get on with his day with a smile. Honestly, the confidence in the kids in the hallway when they were walking with her was incredible! They are so proud to have her in their room, they were talking to people they didn't even know (other students and teachers) and telling them all about Jasmine and what she can do and that she is their dog for as long as they are in the program. Then, the other students and teachers would share their stories about their dogs past and present. It was really heartwarming to see! One of the little boys told me that he thought he "connected" with Jasmine because she was looking in his eyes and that she is his best friend! Please share this with the group. They need to know how magical Jasmine was even on her first day! But boy was she utterly exhausted!

Jasmine with children on a bus

Jazzie is helping the kids to remain focused and calm on our field trips. You can see how they adore her. Jasmine's presence in the classroom has made a huge difference. The kids are really paying attention to their comments and behaviors because they know that she cannot be in the room with them unless she is safe. They keep themselves in check much better and they remind their peers to do the same. There have been several instances when Jasmine has entered the room and immediately diffused possible escalations in student behavior.

We have a boy who becomes frustrated sometimes if Jasmine does not respond to his cue on the first request. He immediately becomes demanding and raises his voice to her. I have been able to say to him, "John, don't yell at Jazzie. Remember, happy and friendly works best with her—just like with people." Then, he will make his voice high pitched and excited and she trots over to him with her tail wagging, much to his delight! Now, when he talks to her, he tries to always be happy and pleasant. When he is gruff with people, we remind him that we are like Jazzie and he immediately changes his tone. I have worked on that with him all of last year with minimal progress. Now, with Jazzie's help, he is starting to be more pleasant with a gentle reminder.

Jasmine has done some intro assemblies and the whole school has warmly welcomed her. Three of my students introduced Jasmine in front of a packed house. These are kids who have low confidence levels and yet, they were on stage in front of hundreds! One student even came up to demonstrate how Jasmine gets on his lap so he can hug her. It was really priceless. This is a highly anxious boy—it was amazing!

I have also been visiting the regular education classrooms because Jasmine also plays a role in educating the public about service dogs and also acceptance. She's a beautiful girl and a very well loved addition to our staff at Mt. Morris Central School!

SSD Jasmine II was raised by the Molloy family and trained by Kara Donohue.

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