"Making a Difference, One Paw at a Time"TM
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Webkinz Day

Program promotes pet care with a woof


Foxy, A therapy dog from Fox Valley Therapy Dog Club, gets a lot of attention from Dema Delgiudice, Helen Dudley and Brandon Teng at a presentation for Naper Settlements "School's Out" program.
(STNG Photo)

November 28, 2007

Megan Gessler's dog, Misty, a border collie-sheltie mix, knows a lot of tricks.

Still, when Gessler placed Misty's hairbrush on the floor of Naper Settlement's meeting house and told her to "do the trick with your brush," the dog simply didn't know what to do.

Gessler playfully wondered why, and a few of the 80 kids attending the settlement's "School's Out" program this week suggested she was just shy.

But most knew the right answer.

"She's a dog. Right, she can't brush herself. She doesn't have thumbs," Gessler said.

Gessler and a dozen other dog handlers who are members of the Yorkville-based Fox Valley Therapy Dog Club offered all kinds of pet-care tips to kids who attended the program.

Earlier in the day, the settlement set those kids up with pets of their own -- Webkinz. Webkinz are toys similar to Beanie Babies, but they come with a special code on their labels that allow their owners to access the "Webkinz World." The Web site allows the owners to "adopt" a virtual version of their pet to interact with.

Owners must log on to Webkinz in order for their pets to survive.

"So it's a connection to the work that they have to take care of online and the work that they would have to take care of ... with a real pet," said Pat Elliott, a Naper Settlement museum educator.

After the students made that connection, the kids broke into small groups, where the various dog handlers introduced the kids to their canine companions, reading stories and explaining the roles they play in the health-care system.

"If you were in a hospital because you broke your leg, and you were feeling kind of blue, we might take our dogs in to come visit you and cheer you up," Gessler said. "Or if you have a grandfather or great-grandfather in a nursing home, and maybe somebody hasn't come to visit him in a couple of days, we'll bring our dogs up there to cheer him up. He'll be able to pet the dog and maybe tell us about the dog that he had when he was little.

"So basically their job is to cheer people up."

Source: Beacon News, November 28, 2007