By Sloane Quealy-Miner
You may remember Gladys, a beloved member of the MacNaught-Stahl family, from her previous story of awesome bunny-rescue that secured her a well deserved place in the Pit Bull Heroes Hall of Fame. Well, Gladys is back with a second heroic story!
Since receiving her certificate from the UKC Canine Good Citizen Program, Gladys and her human mommy Heather have been working rigorously to complete the D.J. Professional Pet-Assisted Therapy Program at CCRI. Part of the intense program involves completing an internship. For this Gladys and Heather joined a local kindergarten class in Warwick, Rhode Island where many children who have developmental delays have been mainstreamed. Gladys is the first pit bull they have had in the school participating in this program, and while the teacher is a pit bull enthusiast, the assistant was not so sure. No surprise after the first session the assistant became one of Gladys’ biggest fans!
Every week the designated “person of the day” would greet Heather and Gladys at the school’s front desk and escort them to the classroom. That child was allowed to sit with Gladys during class time, although other kids would insist on turns with Gladys because, as you can imagine, Gladys is quite popular with the children! In fact one child was afraid of dogs until Gladys came to the class.
Prior to each class Heather was given a different theme such as such as adoption, feelings, pet and self care, service and therapy animals, etc. Cleverly, Heather used a children’s book that she wrote from the point of view of Gladys, which included her own photographs as illustrations to use as a teaching tool. The book correlates the experiences of being a puppy with being a child: family life, sharing, conquering fears, making friends, etc. After Gladys saved the bunnies Heather also wrote a second book that she used in class as well.
At the end of the internship Heather and Gladys rewarded each student with a certificate (an award in kindness and dog safety) for completion of the program and for being a friend and protector of animals. The certificates have Gladys’ paw print and a photo of each child with Gladys.
Heather and Gladys changed a lot of people’s minds about pit bulls by doing this internship. Many people said to Heather, “I’ve heard of therapy dogs, but never with a pit bull! She seems so sweet and gentle.” Heather would explain that pit bulls are dogs like any other – and have a great capacity for love and kindness.
This fantastic duo is in the process of starting up a second internship with another class of young children who have significant delays, and, not surprisingly, Heather and Gladys have also been approached by a special education teacher to participate in one of their classes. Upon completion of the the D.J. Professional Pet-Assisted Therapy Program Gladys will begin the process to receive her professional Pet Assisted Therapy credentials.
Gladys is a hero in every sense of the word and a true ambassador for her breed. Wherever she goes she educates people through her actions. Everyday, by just being Gladys, she dispels the myths that pit bulls are vicious dogs, incapable of a gentle touch and loving relationships. She forces people to look at her as an individual, and not to judge her based on the bad acts of a few. She challenges people to give other dogs that look like her a chance, to think of her before making a judgment. And for a lucky few she will inspire them to make the decision to open their hearts and their homes to a pit bull.
We love you Gladys, you are an inspiration to us all. We here at BSL News look forward to hearing much more from you in the future. And we thank you Gladys, Heather and the entire MacNaught-Stahl family for all you do for our beloved bully breeds.