By Mark Barnes
Monday and Tuesday service dogs visited Crimson Point Elementary sixth grade classes to give comfort to students who lost one of their classmates in last Thursday’s bus crash. Ten teams of handlers and dogs visited the school coming from all over the Treasure Valley.
Julie Bender, handler of an 11-year-old Australian Shepard named Hope, said that she put the word out to the service dog community and they came running, no questions asked.
“We can rally the packs and be here as much as we need to be,” she said.
Bender, who visits Crimson Point kindergarten classes every week with a reader dog, a dog especially trained to aid in helping students read, said that she brought her other service dog this week to give comfort.
“Every time you pet a dog you lower your heart beat by one beat,” she said. “It calms you and there’s no judgment from the dog. Kids love on dogs. They get to visit with them and pet them. For this situation, it’s all about the loving.”
While Bender was talking, Hope was begging for treats from a Crimson Point student who had a particularly rough emotional response to the events of last week.
“Dogs are healing to the soul,” said a teary-eyed Bender. “I don’t think there’s any other person that can touch a soul like a dog.”
Bender said that in just two days she senses quieter and calmer classes. “There seems to be a restored sense of normalcy,” she said. “And if the need arises we can be back here tomorrow.”