Welcome back to school! School is in full swing and we are in the thick of things in October. Esther and I just wanted to check in and give everyone an update.
Esther is eleven months old now! It’s hard to believe that the adorable eight pound puppy who was interviewing with Dr. Buuck last spring is almost all grown up.
Are you new to Faith or curious about how our facility dog program got its start? Check out our previous Esther blog posts here!
We are continuing to work hard with Brad Norton of Norton Dog Training. Bringing up a dog to work in a school is quite a different experience than raising a pet or even training a service dog. Esther’s training involves understanding that when she is at work she is here to serve a purpose. This means teaching her that her drive to take care of the people at school needs to be greater than whatever she would rather be doing. Keep in mind she is still a puppy so sometimes those barks do slip out or she gets distracted by something she would like to play with. Overall, I am so amazed at the progress she has made. She will spend entire days here at Faith calmly receiving students and being out and about during school hours. We continue to identify goals for Esther to work on and Brad is innovative in creating ways to achieve them.
Can you see me? My awesome trainer @nortondogtraining is working on distance and recall. All I know is that I love a day at the park!-Esther
Sadly, our Faith community continues to deal with tragedy. Already this early in the year we have lost two important members of our family, student Ashley Perrone and teacher Michelle Sprouse. Esther has worked to provide comfort to those who are grieving. She constantly amazes me with how intuitive she is about what people need. I have seen her come out of her kennel to lay her head in the lap of someone who is crying. She has also worked with kids to calm their back to school anxiety and to welcome new students to campus. I think one of my favorite moments this year was when one of our Mark 10:14, rockstar students came down to read Charlotte’s Web to Esther and he lulled her to sleep with his story. I love how much she has become a part of our family and our culture here at Faith.
As a program, what we are doing with Esther continues to draw attention from all over the country. I constantly field phone calls from educators who are interested in learning how we have made this work and how they can establish programs themselves. Imitation Esthers are even beginning to pop up at different schools here in the valley. I think this is delightful, because as I tell my husband: MORE DOGS IS ALWAYS THE RIGHT ANSWER
Esther’s work at Faith continues to evolve. As she progresses through her training she will be seen around campus more and more and often independently of me. We would like Esther to be available to spend time in classrooms, be present at sporting events, and become more involved with our Mark 10:14 program. While she currently spends most of her time with me, she has started to branch out go with other counselors on occasion as requested.
And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? Esther 4:14
I have always loved Esther 4. The pep talk that Mordecai gives to Queen Esther begging for her to intervene with the king is one of my favorite butt kickings of all time. I’ve often needed the reminder in my life that my faith, my hope, my strength, and my courage are from God, not from myself and not from those around me. We can support, love, and fight for each other, but God remains our source. I also love the idea that all of our experiences and all of the gifts that God has given us are with a purpose and in line with His plan, even when we don’t understand the plan.
Whenever I have found myself dragging my feet I try to reflect on the fact that we are all brought to different places for such a time as this. I do drag my feet so often that several years ago I actually had the words “for such a time as this” tattooed on my arm as a daily reminder. In the aftermath of 1 October, that verse was sent to the counselors again and again. It seemed like the most natural thing to name the new puppy Esther, in light of her role and how the program itself evolved.
This year will bring triumph and joy, tragedy and heartache. We know that on this side of heaven there will be sin and darkness. As the Faith Family, we will continue to face these high and lows together, loving and supporting each other and resting in the knowledge that God is in control. And as we face these times, it will most likely help to pet a dog…...and we know where you can find one!
You can follow Esther’s adventures on both Facebook and Instagram (she’s too young for snapchat) @estherbeancomfortqueen!
Mrs. Courtney Burns serves as the Director of Middle School Counseling at Faith Lutheran Middle School & High School in Las Vegas, NV.