Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Off to School

Today’s guest blogger is Elin Phillips, from Franklin, Texas, an instructor from Franklin ISD who teaches gifted and talented students. She also teaches dogs and miniature donkeys and has trained several as therapy animals. She’s a member of the Delta Society, an international organization dedicated to “improving human health through service and therapy animals.” ( Additionally, she’s involved in animal rescue and fostering, belongs to Aggieland Pets with a Purpose, and fostered Buddy, a blind Great Pyrenees, whose story you’ll read about in an upcoming blog.

I asked Elin how many animals she currently has and she had to stop and think for a moment. I could hear the wheels turn as she silently counted off all her charges -- last count was 12 miniature donkeys and 8 dogs! She became interested in miniature donkeys about 6 years ago and discovered how remarkably like dogs they were in personality and disposition, making them excellent therapy animals. One of her donkeys in particular, Pino, has been certified as a therapy animal and drew quite a crowd during his training and evaluation. Pino has been a guest at Special Olympics events and nursing homes, and makes the rounds doing hospice work and school events.

How did Elin become involved in 2dogs2000niles and how did she meet Luke? Here’s where the magnetic attraction of dogs comes in. Elin’s friend Frances (we’ll meet her in a later blog too) heard from yet another friend that a young man and his two Great Pyrenees were trekking cross country to spread the word about canine cancer. One thing led to another, magic began to happen (magic is often associated with dogs), and Elin learned The Boys would be coming through Franklin within days. Before she knew it, Elin and the 2dogs2000miles Team had arranged a gathering at her school where Luke and The Boys would be telling their story.

Elin says she was especially impressed with how well Luke conveyed his message to the kids, K through second grade. He easily held their attention, explained his journey, and answered their many questions. And, of course, Hudson and Murphy soaked up all the attention, as it should be. But I’ll let Elin tell you the story herself.

Having Luke, Murphy, and Hudson come through Franklin, Texas was a wonderful and amazing opportunity, not just for an animal lover like me, but for all the community members and school children who came to see the Traveling Trio.

On Sunday, April 6th, I got a phone call that they would be arriving in Franklin on Tuesday. A rapid chain of events ensued, involving Kathy in Florida, Mark in Cape Cod, me in Franklin, and Luke … well, wherever he was at the moment. Kathy made sure to keep me informed of The Boys’ whereabouts and their ETA into my tiny little town. She also worked continually to check the weather and locate potential places for them to camp.

Meanwhile, Mark worked feverishly to help me coordinate the educational assembly Luke was going to present at my school and helped contact the local media as well. I scrambled to get permission from administrators to have the assembly: when and where to hold it. I also emailed other schools that would be on Luke's route as he made his way into northeast Texas, hoping they would invite him to speak as well. And, while he was continuing his mile by mile trek, Luke formulated in his mind what he was planning on saying to a group of 160 young school kids.

Tuesday, April 8, 2dogs2000miles made their way into town. The three of them created quite a celebrity buzz at the local Mexican restaurant -- photos were taken and autographs were signed!

The next morning Luke, Murphy, and Hudson were at the school, ready to take on a gymnasium full of chatty little students. Luke did an awesome job of explaining information related to the dogs, their gear, their journey, and answered all the questions the kids threw at him. Even the teachers had quite a few questions. In the meantime, Hudson and Murphy happily lay on the gym floor during the entire 30 minute talk -- although Hudson really wanted to personally greet each student. At the end, every child walked by and petted both dogs -- Hudson eagerly anticipating each and every pat, Murphy calmly and quietly taking it all in.

Since their departure from little ol' Franklin, Texas, I've had people stop me in the store or at school to tell me they saw the threesome somewhere down highway 79 or to express their gratitude for Luke's efforts.

I kept my eyes and ears open for several days...just in case Luke and The Boys needed something. But just as they had appeared, the highway slowly swept them away again. I plan on tracking them on the 2dogs2000miles website and keep up with their experiences. And when their pilgrimage is through, I'll celebrate along with all the others who supported Luke, Hudson, Murphy, and 2dogs2000miles.

A very special thanks to Elin Phillips for this blog and for all her help in getting Luke’s message out. And thank you Franklin, Texas, for your hospitality.

Puppy Up!

Erich & His 4 Pack


wolfwatcher said...

Amazing--absolutely amazing!
Sounds as if the students had a great time!

Jerry G Dawg said...

Oh what fun you boys are having! Wish I was there with you on the road, but know that I am there in spirit. We will meet up again, promise!


Steph said...

Hey Luke, I bet you never thought you'd be speaking in schools and getting to be such a celebrity, did you?! How cool! Can't wait till you get in my area! Central PA! Puppy up!!!