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The Times
  • Therapy dog inspires BOCES students’ reading, writing

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  • When therapy dog Bogey walks into a classroom, he gives students another chance at getting more interested in reading.
    Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES teacher Trista Twomey recently welcomed her mother, Michele Twomey, and her parents’ dog, Bogey, into her 12:1:1 classroom to help motivate students to read, write and behave properly.
    The Twomeys explained to the students that Bogey just enjoys being read to and doesn’t care if they mess up any of the words when they are reading.
    “It’s great just to see the kids come out of their shell because the dog isn’t going to judge their reading,” Trista Twomey said.
    Trista Twomey’s 12:1:1 class includes students in fifth grade through seventh grade. During Bogey’s visit on Oct. 18, the students played a service dog matching game, read to Bogey as individuals and as a group, made pictures and bracelets for Bogey and painted pumpkins.
    After reading “The Cows and the Corn” to Bogey, student Faith Davis, 11, had a big smile on her face as she walked around the classroom.
    “I’m so excited,” she said. “Did you see what he did? Bogey listened to me while I was reading to him.”
    When asked about the experience, Faith easily summed it up and said it was “great.”
    “Bogey is a service dog,” she said. “He listens to kids read, and I read to him.”
    ‘Bogey’s knack’
    With a golf-inspired full name of Bogey Woods, the Twomeys’ dog has always been unique, Trista Twomey said. They found that he was bored at home — always getting into things and acting out, such as taking water bottles out of the pantry.
    Bogey also is a timid dog, known to get chased away by turkeys and other smaller animals.
    After looking more into Bogey’s behavior, Michele Twomey got him certified as a therapy dog and started taking him into malls and Walmart to get him used to crowds.
    Trista Twomey was teaching a second-grade class, and they brought him in. Once in the classroom, he didn’t seem to be scared of anything, and students started reading to him.
    A student with autism who had previously completely refused to read was suddenly grabbing as many books off the shelf as he could to read to Bogey, Trista Twomey said.
    “That’s when we found out that being read to was Bogey’s knack,” she said.
    Using Bogey to help inspire students to read continued last year in Trista Twomey’s pre-kindergarten class at Herkimer BOCES and returns again this year in her 12:1:1 class. The Twomeys also take him to other places to help during the summer such as United Cerebral Palsy.
    Page 2 of 3 - ‘Really into it’
    This year, Bogey’s involvement in the classroom came about a little differently. Students read about service dogs in their social studies work, and Trista Twomey used a visit from Bogey as motivation for the students to write persuasive essays.
    The class worked together to write a persuasive essay to Herkimer BOCES Special Education Supervisor Brittany Baker asking her to allow Bogey to visit their classroom.
    “And they got really into it,” Trista Twomey said.
    Baker, who knew the essay would be submitted to her, approved the plan, and then the students started practicing reading and working on good behavior in preparation for Bogey’s visit.
    “It instantly sparked their interest,” Trista Twomey said.
    On Oct. 18, the children knew Bogey would be visiting sometime that day, but many of them were surprised and exciting when he arrived in the morning.
    Michele Twomey stood in front of the classroom and introduced the special guest.
    “This is my dog, Bogey, and he’s very happy to be in school today,” she said. “He just likes to be read to and to sit with his friends.”
    Reading to Bogey
    Each student had a chance to read to Bogey in a separate room outside of the classroom, while the other children did different activities. When they came back in, many students were happy to talk about the experience.
    Caterina Vosburgh, 11, read “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” to Bogey.
    “When I got in there, he was licking me,” she said.
    Bogey didn’t look much at the pictures in the book, and Caterina attributed that to Bogey disapproving of the monkeys’ poor behavior of jumping on the bed.
    “He didn’t want to look at the pictures because the monkeys are bad,” she said.
    Dylan Flike, 12, said he has a dog at home, but he never tried reading to him. Bogey is different than most dogs, Dylan said, and he enjoyed reading to him.
    ‘Wagged his tail’
    Hailey Flike, 11, said Bogey sat and listened to her read the book, “Big Brown Bear.”
    “And he’s really cute,” she said.
    Hailey said Bogey enjoyed the part of the book where the bear fell and spilled blue paint all over himself.
    “He was happy when the bear fell and got all blue,” she said.
    Nicole Zeidner, 12, said she was excited when reading, and Bogey acted calm. It seemed like Bogey was looking at the pictures, she said.
    Page 3 of 3 - “After, he wagged his tail,” she said.
    Her book was “On the Farm,” and she read to Bogey about animals in the barn, she said.
    “I think he liked the cow,” she said.

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