I met Lucy shortly after I was asked to foster her while her rescuer was out of town. She was a stray that had been hanging around our school for about 4 years. No collar, scared of people and a mom to a litter of pups. I had plans to meet Lucy on Thursday, so from Monday to Wednesday my dog and I slept with old towels so Lucy could sleep with them and learn our scent until she came to our house.
Lucy was very cautious and curious and shook like a leaf on a windy day. She came close enough to lick a dog biscuit but wouldn’t eat it until I laid it on the ground. Later she let me pick her up and actually relaxed for a few seconds. I was confident that she would settle in when she visited our house.
What I hadn’t expected was for her to be absolutely adorable and to warm up to us quickly. My husband said I brought her into the house under false pretense. I lobbied to keep her since she needed a new home. I named her Lucy because of the children’s book Absolutely Lucy about a beagle.
We’ve had her a week and it has been interesting to observe her progress. The first command worked on was “come”. In the house she would come within about 2 feet and stop until one day she decided it would be OK to come the rest of the way. She wanted up on the bed but couldn’t make the jump but figured out on her own how to use the trunk at the foot of the bed as her first step. She now stands ready and waiting to take a dog treat out of your hand. She has more to learn……..it’s like having a 4 year old puppy…..lots of learning and training to accomplish.
Watching her reminds me of a shy, timid, quiet child in the classroom. The child that could easily go through the school year as an observer instead of a participant. Just like Lucy, they first have to learn to trust you. If you can get them to like you, that helps too.
After doing the usual…….. saying “hi” with a smile, complimenting them on desired behavior and asking others quietly to encourage them to play……I do the one thing that has worked for me time and time again with not only shy children but also with those that need to build confidence.
As I walk around the room during a lesson that requires writing answers, I call on various children to give the answers at the same time I am keeping a eye on my shy or under confident student. When we reach the question that I know they know the answer to I call on them…….of course before we hear the answer we hear “I didn’t raise my hand”. I answer, “I know you didn’t, but I see you have the correct answer”. After a few times of this they usually begin to raise their hand on their own. Again, I won’t call on them unless I know they know the correct answer. I might do this all year with a child but it is important for them to be successful if they are to start taking risks. Taking risks is how we begin to learn on our own……take the risk to take the next step.
I read Absolutely Lucy to my class and it has opened up a discussion on how you can make friends. Bobby, Lucy’s owner, is shy but he makes three friends in three different ways but the common factor is his dog Lucy. After we finished the book we had a discussion on how to make friends. Each child ideas on how to make friends and we turned it into our own class book with an old fashioned library card in the back so the children will be able to check it out to share with their families. Discussing how to make friends also lead to a discussion on how to be a friend. We talked about what they should do if another child tries to be friends with them or how to welcome a new student.
My other dog, Molly, has been helping Lucy make friends and be more social. They are now friends with an elderly man we meet on our walks. They have a “boyfriend” named Buddy and they stop in front of his house to see if he is going to join them. They both snuggle up to their pet sitter. In every case it was Molly that made the initial move and Lucy, seeing that it was a safe situation, followed her lead. Children, like Lucy, will stay back until they can tell it is a safe situation and they will be accepted.
Lucy, now spayed and microchipped, has been taking risks 3 years of her life and our goal is for her to learn that a warm bed and a full tummy is better than a life on the run.