Each Wednesday during the school year, Floyd, an Italian Spinone, is part of the reading program at Colton Elementary School.
Floyd is a certified therapy dog and his owner, retired Colton Middle School secretary Becky Tevis, who said that coming to the Colton Elementary each week is the best volunteer gig in the world.
On those Wednesdays when Floyd comes to school, as the students walk through the halls changing classroom, they stop one by one to give Floyd pats and he loves it, greeting each of them with a tail wag.
Tevis said she and her dog began training at a very young age.
“We took him everywhere to get him familiar with people and different places,” Tevis said. “We even took him to concerts and got him used to being around medical equipment. We went to outdoor restaurants and spent lots of time with children of all ages. He graduated from obedience school before continuing his training as a therapy dog, where the focus was working with children.”
On Tuesdays, Floyd goes to Willamette Falls where he “volunteers” in the open areas. This includes surgical and emergency waiting rooms, as well as spending time in the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit.
“Floyd senses when someone needs him,” Tevis said. “I have watched it time and time again.”
Last Wednesday, before Floyd, the students and Mrs. Tevis settled down in their reading space, they visited the school library to pick out books. Some students came ready to read books they had previously chosen, most of these were about cats and dogs.
The students sit on the floor with Floyd while they read from their books. They often take time to give Floyd a pat or scratch and if they stumble over a word or two, Tevis is there to help them sound it out. The students love to read to fluffy Floyd and talk about their own pets and their families.
Floyd is there to encourage reading but he also is there for support if a student needs some downtime.
“I had a student who was having kind of a grumpy, bad day,” second/third-grade teacher Mrs. Groat said. “He went in to spend some time with Floyd and after about five minutes he was back in the classroom, smiling. He had a good rest of the day.”
Tevis said it was really heartwarming when Floyd needed hip surgery and all the students in Mrs. Groat’s room sent him get-well cards. One mother commented that her son had not really been into reading, but when he started to get the chance to read to Floyd he would practice reading out loud at home so he would get it perfect for Floyd.
“The current administration of the Colton Schools has made sure Floyd is certified,” Tevis said. “They met with him to check his demeanor and to learn about his background before he was allowed in the school with the children.”
Italian Spinone are a breed of hunting dogs, traditionally used for tracking or pointing, but now are often used as therapy and service dogs as they are known as a gentle, friendly, easy-going breed. They are noted to have the ability to bond with people.
Floyd’s mother was a therapy dog and, of course, so is her son. In fact, he has won the Spinone Club of America’s “Therapy Dog of the Year” and has had a long show career. A pup he sired has been the top-ranking Spinone in the show ring.
For now, Floyd is winning some different kinds of awards in Colton.
“I love reading and I love dogs, so reading with Floyd makes a perfect day,” third-grade student Brenna Rivera said.