by Brenda Dickison
Zuri was born near Sacramento, California, and joined our family on New Year’s Day 2008, when she was about 8 weeks old. Zuri was always a patient, furry, and very sweet pup. Her favorite activities were rolling in the snow and fetching tennis balls. She was a typical Golden—loved people and was very food-oriented.
We first became HABIC certified in 2009 when Zuri was just 2 years old. We had recently moved to Fort Collins from Anchorage, and I was looking for new volunteer opportunities. Zuri seemed to me like a perfect therapy dog.
We began with weekly visits to Lemay Avenue Rehab, and occasional CSU de-stress events. In 2010, we took a break while I worked for HABIC but in 2013, we completed advanced animal-assisted therapy (AAT) training. From there right through until 2020, we worked in schools, including Truscott Elementary in Loveland and Johnson Elementary in Fort Collins.
Zuri’s very favorite time was doing HABIC work. She would always get excited when we put on her HABIC vest. Her volunteer time was the highlight of her week. She loved going to schools and being around kids. One of her first HABIC students taught her to roll over.
Another favorite part of our routine was at the end of each session I would “blindfold” Zuri with a HABIC scarf while students hid treats around the room. Zuri was given the command “find it” and would search for the treats. This gave students the opportunity to help her.
A magic connection
I am a social worker, mainly advocating for and working with children. I have always had a dog in my life. Volunteering is one of the things that I have always done. The opportunity to work in animal therapy has been a perfect combination for me. Witnessing the connection between dog and student is magical.
At the elementary schools we had students work on a variety of skills and routines. At the end of the semester, each student would present to their class or small group of friends. They would talk about Zuri and demonstrate skills. At the end they would teach each student to give a command and offer a treat with an open hand.
The first year Zuri began her work in schools the teacher on our team, Shari Gladis, gave us a journal. Each student we have worked with over the years has written in the journal and we’ve also included cards, drawings, and photos. It is a wonderful memento.
I loved being part of a school community and providing a positive time in a student’s week. HABIC is a unique and very special way to connect with the community, and to give your pet more purpose and enjoyment.