Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Children respond to terrier

Students with special needs interact with 'Pet Partners'

By Anna Guido
Enquirer contributor

COLERAIN TWP. - When Max walked into Nancy Holt's class Monday at Taylor Elementary School, students laughed and shouted with joy.

They could barely stay seated, but finally calmed down enough to welcome their guest with hugs and kisses. In return, each of the nine preschoolers - ages 3 to 5 - was given a valentine card from the black terrier.

"I like kissing him," said Jenny Schmuelling, 4, of Colerain Township

Bruce McCrary, 5, also of Colerain, liked what Max was wearing. "He's dressed up - like a mailman."

Max is no stranger to the 600-plus students at Taylor Elementary, a pre-kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school in the Northwest Local District. He visits twice a month with occupational therapist Jane Orth.

Orth, of the Hamilton County Educational Service Center, works with Taylor Elementary's 64 special-needs preschoolers.

"Children with autism make eye contact with Max," Orth said. "Children with limited speech use more language with Max. And a girl with cerebral palsy who never said the teacher's name said `Max' and `doggie.'"

Orth and Max are registered "Pet Partners" for Animal Assisted Activities and Therapies, a program of the Delta Society. The Delta Society (www.deltasociety.org) promotes the use of animals in helping people to improve their health, independence and quality of life.

Orth and Max plan to begin regular visits this summer to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

The 40-pound Max, whose favorite treat is cream cheese, has come a long way since 1998. Orth rescued him from an animal shelter that summer, hours before he was to be euthanized.

E-mail annag1129@cs.com

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