BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - In September 2016, Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center, part of the Berkeley Heights Public School District, welcomed Timber, an Australian Labradoodle, to their school as a facility dog. Since then, Timber has become a fixture in the halls and classrooms of the school, working with students at the Early Childhood Center on a regular basis. It is not uncommon to find Timber walking the school grounds with Mrs. Corley and a student who “earned” Timber Time, engaged with a student in speech therapy, or in a classroom being read a child’s “Just-Right” book.
Mary Kay McMillian Early Childhood Center is a preschool through first grade school dedicated to enriching the lives of Berkeley Heights youngest students. Timber belongs to school principal Anne Corley-Hand who decided she wanted to bring pet therapy to her students after attending a workshop on the benefits of therapy dogs in schools.
Kathy Kayne, a speech therapist at MKM says, “I have found Timber to be very helpful in eliciting language and promoting play skills with my students at the school. I have been incorporating him into my group speech therapy sessions since October 2016. Timber adds a very friendly and relaxing element into a structured environment. The children always smile and start to call out for him to come over to the play area. I was surprised that the children started to “talk” to him like they would a younger sibling. One child was able to explain clearly and sequentially about a trip that she took into New York City with her family. She was able to “tell Timber” about the train ride, the tall buildings and all the walking her family did. She was able to use long sentences and was smiling ear to ear the entire time. All the children want to teach Timber commands and give him treats for his good work.
According to 1st Grade teacher, Susan Poage, “Having Timber in the building is a gift to our students, a gift I call the "power of puppies." As a dog owner, I know a dog provides mental and social benefits. When our young students see Timber, they light up. Some kids who start their day off in a negative way see the dog and their whole demeanor shifts. They turn that frown upside down: The power of puppies!
“Timber’s gentle and sweet natured personality make him the ideal school comfort dog. As one parent says, “The addition of a comfort dog for the students at MKM is the magical icing on the cake.”