By Mike Wertman
Medina Journal-Register — Very often dogs are refered to as “man’s best friend” and that most certainly is the case for some students at Oak Orchard School thanks to the weekly visit by their special canine buddy Humphrey.
A Landsear Newfoundland and a certified therapy dog, Humphrey began working with Oak Orchard students last spring helping with counseling. This semester he has been helping out in a class of special needs kids.
“Humphey absolutely loves it. He thinks he’s at a spa with all the attention he gets and the kids love to be with him,” said Humphrey’s owner and certified handler Wendi Pencille, who volunteers her time to bring Humphrey into the school.
“Humphrey really means the world to the kids. They really look forward to him coming,” said Counselor Ann Marie Martillotta, who notes that the students made treats for Humphrey for a recent visit.
Martillotta adds that Humphrey helps the kids relax, open up and become more socially interactive. “He’s a trustworthy friend that they really open up with,” she said. “Kids who normally don’t say much of anything will talk to Humphrey and ask him questions. It really spawns some interesting interaction. They are comfortable with him. They see Humphrey as someone who loves them. It’s love and companionship.”
Pencille notes that Humphrey has been certified by Therapy Dogs International, an organization which as its website states “is dedicated to regulating, testing and registration of therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers for the purpose of visiting nursing homes, hospitals, other institutions and wherever else therapy dogs are needed.”
“It’s more rewarding that I thought possible,”Pencille said. “To see the kids faces when they interact with Humphrey its just very rewarding. I love it so much. I feel I’m doing some good with him. I really do.”
Humphrey’s work in the school also involves helping with the reading tutor program.”It helps the kids with their reading as they feel more comfortable and relaxed with Humphrey,” Pencille notes. “Sometimes they lie right on him like a pillow. They relax so they enjoy the moment.”
Pencille notes that next Humphrey will be paying visits to the nursing home to try and brighten the spirits of the residents there.
“Often times people have to give up their pets when they go to the nursing home so having Humphrey visit them will hopefully brighten their day and help to make up for something they have lost. “
And Humphrey will soon get some help in his work in the school and nursing home as Pencille plans to get two more of her dogs certified as therapy dogs.