by Bronwyn Shroyer, MSW, LCSW, LSSW
In the two years that Kiley has been with me at our school, I’ve seen the incredible bonds that she can form with our students. Not only does she bring smiles to their faces or provide some much-needed hugs, but she also helps them feel capable in their academic skills.
Reading to an animal can be less intimidating than reading to a fellow human, and the same goes for writing! We installed Kiley’s Mailbox at our school after seeing how much our students love to read with Kiley. Our logic was that if she brings out the love of reading, our students would love writing to her as well. And it works! Kiley averages about a thousand letters a year delivered to her mailbox by students who ask her all sorts of questions:
“What are your favorite foods?”
“Do you have a favorite color?”
“What did you do over the weekend?”
With the questions come comments from students that prove Kiley’s importance as a staff member in our building:
“I love having you in our school!”
“You are my best friend.”
“I’m so glad you are here!”
Some letters ask for help. Others tell Kiley about things that are going on in a student’s life. Teachers have made special letter writing paper for kids to use in their classrooms.
I’ll highlight one letter from a student in its entirety:
“Thank you for working at our school! Please stay! Because you make me feel comfortable at school. Being comfortable helps me work better.”
Kiley answers every single student who writes to her–she’s a very smart dog. She wants the kids to know that their words matter and deserve a response. She has her own stationery and her signature has a tiny paw print for the dot in the “i” in her name. Kids love getting letters back–especially if the letter is also an invitation to lunch with Kiley and me.
Kiley brings joy to our building and our students each and every day. ICAN’s mission is far-reaching. Not only do people with disabilities get much-needed assistance from service dogs, but children in schools are getting social, emotional, and academic support from facility dogs like Kiley. If I were to put a letter in Kiley’s mailbox today, I know what I’d tell her. “Thanks for being the best partner in the world. Having you come to work with me has been the best choice I’ve ever made as a school social worker. You make a difference every day.” She’d retrieve it from her mailbox, close the lid, look at me for a treat, and I’d give her one. A treat is such a small thing to ask for from a dog who makes the world a better place.
Bronwyn & Kiley