Bronwyn & Kiley

''I've Got the Best Doggone Job!'' – a Facility Dog Named Kiley

by Bronwyn Shroyer

As a social worker at an elementary school, I thought I understood the impact a highly-skilled facility dog would make in my building when I decided to start an Animal-Assisted Intervention program. Despite two years of research, planning, and conversations, I realize now that I grossly underestimated.

 

Each morning before students arrive, Kiley roams the halls to greet teachers with one of her stuffed animals in her mouth. Her tail wags so hard I think she might fall over. Her handler, Nan, had told me that Kiley liked to greet everyone at the Indiana Women's Prison in the morning, so I felt this was a nice way to keep that tradition going. When the bell rings, the stuffed animal goes away; the leash goes on; and Kiley's presence brings smiles to our students as they head to class. We hear "Good morning, girl!" and "Can I pet her?" many times during this time period. Just this morning a student told me, "School is less stressful with a dog!"

 

 

Since Kiley's graduation in December, 2017, she's already impacted the lives of over 500 students which means that Nan and Benjamin (her ICAN handlers) have a share in that positive impact on society. If I have a student crying in my office, she doesn't even need to be told a cue to go over and nudge them until they laugh or wrap their arms around her. If students are upset and arguing, she will grab a toy and try to engage them. Students with ADHD go on walks outside with her and will hold perfectly still doing their work if Kiley is resting by them. Students with anxiety stroke her yellow fur until they are calm and ready to go back to class. Students with autism can work on social skills by interacting with her and teaching her a new cue. Kiley spends time every week with a small group of Kindergarteners around her, reading poems or books. Just about every day, a first or second grader puts a letter for her under our office door. When you don't enjoy writing, the novelty of writing to a dog (who writes you back) helps writing not be such a chore.

ICAN Handler Nan, Kiley & Bronwyn

Kiley is also an excellent teacher when it comes to social and emotional learning – which is linked to higher academic achievement. She is an ambassador of empathy, constantly reading everyone's mood. I fiercely guard her breaks at school, and although my students want to see her, it is a moment to teach them how to care for the well-being of others. They've had to learn why saying her name or trying to get her attention may overwhelm her. And when they hear Kiley's story about where she trained and why, it helps open their eyes to why people deserve second chances. That despite making mistakes in life, all of us are capable of still putting good out into the world. Kiley's sweet spirit, patience, and background make her the best friend any of us have ever had. She is nothing short of extraordinary.

(Left to right) Kiley and her siblings Walter & Mischka

In four months' time, I can no longer imagine my work or my life or my family without Kiley. The gift of each ICAN dog into the world impacts lives in a myriad of ways. I'm so extremely grateful to be a piece of that network and a part of the ICAN family.   – Bronwyn Shroyer

To watch a cool video clip on the day and life of Kiley working at his job visit ICAN Kiley.