HOLMDEL, N.J. – Holmdel High School’s SPCA club recently opened their doors to a pair of loving visitors.In an effort to educate the group on the topics of rescue and service dogs, SPCA club advisor Jackie Peters invited Holmdel High School colleague and physical education teacher Melinda Brenner to speak to the students about her two special dogs, Remy and Grace.
Brenner explained how Remy and Grace came into her life. After losing her beloved English bulldog of twelve years in October of 2013, she decided to foster a pit bull until he could be rescued and adopted. Though the dog did destroy Brenner’s sofa when he was home alone one day, she still found him to be loveable and full of energy. It gave her a better appreciation of the breed that can sometimes be unfairly stereotyped as violent and risky.
After her experience with the pit bull, Brenner attended a PetSmart adoption event, where pets from Monmouth County SPCA and Paws for Cause are brought in with the hope that they can find permanent, loving homes. Hearing there would be an English bulldog for adoption, Brenner showed up, but unfortunately, the bulldog did not. While waiting, she saw Remy, a one-year-old pit bull, and instantly fell in love. Recalling the incident with the sofa, she knew she would need another dog to help drain the energy of Remy, and that is when she set her eyes on Grace, a six-month-old pit bull with a broken rear leg. She brought them home that same day.
Aside from now having two loving pets, Brenner also decided to put both dogs through basic obedience training, given their high level of energy. She took it a step further and had Grace train to be a therapy dog. Since then, Grace has obtained her Good Canine Citizen award and became a certified Therapy Dog with Bright and Beautiful. She visits an assisted living home in Colts Neck once a month, and recently spent some time with children with reading challenges at the Atlantic Highlands public library, where the children read books to her.
When asked why she had Grace trained as a therapy dog, Brenner explained, “I got Grace certified because she loves people and is so gentle and it is only me and the two dogs so she really never gets the opportunity to be around people. Being a therapy dog gives her exposure to other people while bringing joy to those she visits.” Grace is required to provide one hour of service each month in order to keep her certification.
Brenner went on to explain that, “Remy is in the process of becoming a therapy dog, too. Remy is super smart and I think I am going to enroll him in the K-9 nose program that prepares a dog to become a bomb and drug sniffing dog.” Beyond the fact that Brenner feels these dogs can be of service, along with being loving pets, she also explained, “I like for the dogs to have exposure to the public to break the stereotype that pit bulls are dangerous and aggressive because they are like any dog. They behave the way they are trained, or not trained.”
As SPCA club advisor, Jackie Peters was thrilled, and felt that the students really benefitted from Brenner’s visit with Remy and Grace and hopes to have more guest speakers like Brenner, and the K-9 officer who visited earlier in the year. The four year old club has upwards of 30 members, and plan events and activities that directly benefit the local SPCA.
Peters wanted to highlight that, “We are starting another pet food /pet supplies drive this week that will run until the end of February. We will be taking donations of dog and cat food, collars, leashes, treats, toys, and old blankets. We produced four carloads of pet food and supplies to the shelter from our first pet collection earlier in the year, and we are hoping to match that
“It is such a joy to see that our students go beyond the classroom, and involve themselves locally and globally, and that teachers like Melinda Brenner give of themselves so readily,” Peters said. “It gives me hope for the future that all creatures, great and small, can be of service in some way, and that showing respect can bring us all together.”