January is National Train Your Dog Month
Georgine Johnson was excited to join the AIR Dog’s School Therapy Dog program with her hound mix, Maeve, after hearing of the initiative, which started last summer.
Georgine, Special Education Supervisor, PK-12 in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District, said she learned of the program from other HVRSD teams who were training with their canine partners.
“I was really drawn to the story of the Bakers and the start of AIR dogs,” she said. “It was what really ignited my passion.”
While Maeve had the right personality, said Georgine, she wondered how her dog – adopted from a rescue nearly 4 years ago – would respond during the training sessions.
“At the beginning I was concerned she wasn’t going to make it,” recalled Georgine, a lifelong NJ resident and HVRSD graduate. “She was a little uncomfortable with strange dogs at first. It amazes me how she has gotten so much better.”
Another surprise was how the training enhanced their bond.
“I feel this past year has made us so much closer than the past three years we’ve lived together,” she said. “My connection with Maeve is so unique.”
On some training days, Georgine brought Maeve to work to get her acclimated to walking politely through the halls. Now that she’s certified, she can’t wait to start introducing her to some of the students.
“This year has been so challenging for students with remote instruction,” she said. “As a district, we place a really high value on the social and emotional well being of the students. This program can have a really positive impact on the students, especially given the year that they ‘ve been through.”
“Maeve has always been a total love bug,” Georgine said. “She is great with anyone who is willing to hold her. She loves to be held and loved on.”