Special education teacher Kathryn Wood was first introduced to facility assistance dogs when her principal suggested the idea to her in 2018. After researching how a service dog could benefit her students, she knew an Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN) facility dog would be the perfect fit.
Three months after she applied, Kathryn received the news that she had been waiting for: she’d been matched with a facility dog named ICAN Basil.
Since joining Kathryn at Rosa Parks Elementary School in Indianapolis, Basil has been a very busy dog.
During the school year, he is excellent at resting his head on students’ laps and being a non judgemental listener as they learn to read. He also lies next to students that are struggling with emotions to provide a calming presence.
But Kathryn says Basil’s favorite activity to do with the students is playing hide-and-seek. The game is used as a reward for the students for good behavior and meeting classroom goals. How it works is a student will hide his toy and give the cue “find toy.” Basil goes searching for his toy and finds it every time!
Although Basil primarily works with the special education students, Kathryn has found creative ways for him to unleash possibilities for students throughout the entire school, such as when she puts costumes on him for special events.
Basil dresses up for Dr. Seuss Day, Christmas Pajama Day, Hat Day, and Jersey Day. He has also been a great model for art class, where students make replicas of him out of clay.
Visitors to the school may also see “stuffed Basils” traveling the halls with students, as Kathryn has purchased several stuffed animals that look like Basil for the teachers to use as rewards for their students. When they take the stuffed Basil home, the teachers ask the students to write about all of the fun and exciting things that Basil got to do while at their home. She said, “It is a great writing activity, and the kids get VERY excited to bring home ‘Basil’.
Currently, Kathryn has been able to purchase 12 stuffed Basils, but hopes to be able to provide more. She is actively applying for grants that will help fund this initiative.
In addition, the school’s Student Council hosts the annual “Disguise Basil” contest where all 700 students in the school receive a coloring page of Basil and they use their creative art skills to disguise him however they would like.
The Student Council picks the top 10 entries, and there is a Penny War for students to vote on their favorite artists. At the end of the contest, the money raised is donated to ICAN.
When Basil is not working hard at school with the students, he enjoys his nightly walks, no matter the weather. When the weather is nice, one of his favorite things to do is bask in the sun.
Kathryn says that he also enjoys playing with the other ICAN service dogs in Perry Township to burn off some energy on the school playgrounds.
Basil is unleashing possibilities for the students at Rosa Parks every day.
If you are interested in supporting Kathryn’s “stuffed Basil” initiative, please email ICAN Donor Relations Manager Renee Harlor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And to learn more about our facility dog placements, visit icandog.org.