Balto Helps Students With Reading & Spelling | PetFirst
Pet Care & Health

Balto, a Rescue Dog, Helps Students of His New Mom With Reading & Spelling Words

by PetFirst Pet Insurance
4 years ago

“I will never have another dog,” or so I thought after our sweet boy, T.J., passed away at the ripe old age of seventeen. T.J. was a member of our family, and his parting was a bitter pill to swallow for all of us.  I’m sure many others have gone through this same experience—it’s hard to lose a beloved pet.

Time marched on and about two years later came a new job for me! I was given the opportunity to be the Director of a charter school in a community that has been plagued by poverty and all the “trimmings” that go with it.  My new position brought many challenges.  I had taught school for over thirty years, and thankfully, my work experiences helped to prepare me for this new leadership role.  I fell in love with my new students and began working on strategies that would help them succeed academically and socially.

In my research, I continually came upon articles that shared how great therapy dogs were in improving reading skills. The statistics were impressive! Children who needed to build their confidence in oral reading could sit down with a dog and read without fear of judgement or teasing. Over a 10 week period of time, most reading skills improved by 12%.  I had to try this at my school!

My search began by calling my dear friend Maggie. Maggie had been actively involved in animal rights, pet rescue, and volunteer work in central Florida for many years.  Maggie is a woman who makes things happen! At first, I wanted to “borrow” a dog for this new reading project.  However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I wanted control over when the dog visited school and how long the dog would stay with us.

I talked to my husband about the possibility of adopting a rescue dog; I am lucky enough to share my life with a man who loves animals as much as I do. We took a few days to think it over and decided to jump right in!  I contacted Maggie to see if she was aware of a dog who needed a home.  My only stipulation was that it was a “medium size dog.”

Within one hour, Maggie had found Balto and sent this photo:
Balto the rescue dog in the woods
If you look closely you will see the white area on his neck where he had been shaved for surgery. Balto was not only a rescue dog—he was once an abused dog. Balto had been chained in a garage for the first two years of his life.  Somehow, another dog was able to get in the garage and attack Balto leaving him severely wounded.  He laid in the garage for 4 days after the attack with no medical treatment. Finally, his former owner called Lakeland’s TLC PetSnip to pick Balto up.  Balto was taken to a Vet Clinic where he was immediately put on antibiotics.  He was reported to be so swollen that his breed could not be determined at that time.  Two days later, Balto received the much needed surgery to repair his wounds.

Two months later, Balto was on his way to my house, which was about one and a half hours away.
Balto the Rescue dog in his new home
Balto’s caregiver, Terry, offered to bring Balto on January 14, 2016 — a Thursday afternoon. Terry felt comfortable leaving him with us, and we had one week to see if Balto was the right dog for our family!  I can assure you that it was love at first sight!  This is where our journey began.  We immediately enrolled Balto in an obedience class at our local pet store, and in 6 weeks he was a graduate!
Balto the Rescue Dog in his cap and gown at his obedience training graduation
Balto now comes to school with me at least 2 days a week. He loves riding in the car and being with the children, staff, and volunteers.  He is truly a friend to everyone!

He listens to children read or practice their spelling words and he calms children who are stressed, feeling lonely, or feeling troubled by problems in their lives. He gives unconditional love to everyone he meets and, in return, loves all the attention he gets back.
Balto the Rescue Dog reading with students and helping them practice their spelling words
Balto was named at the clinic where his life was saved. Just like in the movie, Balto is living up to his “hero” name. I am so thankful that I changed my mind and welcomed this wonderful dog into my life.

If you are considering having a pet in your life, I encourage you to look into adopting a rescue animal. This dear creature has brought so much happiness into my life and is making a meaningful difference in the lives of my students.
Balto the Rescue Dog and her new owner Suzanne


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