Smiles break out when Tanner makes the rounds

Every other Friday during the school year, Charlie Giglio’s Latin students have a special guest greet them at their Gloversville High School classroom door. That’s when Tanner, Giglio (pronounced “JIH-leo”)’s yellow lab, comes to visit. Tanner, a former rescue dog, is now a certified therapy dog.

“Tanner passed his therapy dog test. This is his second year on the job,” says Giglio, the 2015 New York State Teacher of the Year. “First of all he attends my five Latin classes every day he is here. That’s his first job and we’re out in the halls greeting everybody.”

Several studies and have found that spending time with therapy dogs can help reduce anxiety, stress and even depression. Tanner does seem to put everyone he meets in a good mood.

As they enter the classroom, students shake hands with Giglio and many reach down and pet Tanner. During Latin classes Tanner divides his time in a remarkably equitable fashion. While it cannot be verified that Tanner can tell time, or knows how long a class period is, he manages to circulate and spend some time under each clutch of desks, accepting the loving strokes across his blonde furry back as he moves from area to area.

Giglio uses his planning periods to take Tanner to visit special education classes, where students will read to him or simply bask in his attention. “He loves it,” says Giglio.
When the bell rings and Giglio dismisses his class, he heads into the hall with Tanner in tow. Stopping in at a special education class he peeks in and says to the teacher: “Good morning. Would you like a Tanner visit today?” He waits for permission before heading in. The students sit up a little straighter and they smile as Tanner walks around accepting the pats and strokes of his fur magnanimously.

Giglio speaks to the students in the room, seeking commonalities and always teaching. “Boys and girls, do many of you have a dog?” several hands go up. “What’s your dog’s name,” Giglio asks one of the students.

“Max,” comes the reply.

“Max. Maximus. That’s from Latin,” says Giglio with a smile. “Anybody else have a dog?”

Another student raises her hand. “What’s your dog’s name?”

“Lily,” she says.

Giglio’s eyes light up. “Boys and girls, who here knows what my whole name is?” says Giglio. (Students usually call him “Mr. G” for short.) When a student says it correctly Giglio nods approvingly and then says, “My name, pronounced ‘JIH-leo,’ in Italian means ‘lily.’ ”

As Tanner and Giglio make the rounds several classes keep containers of dog treats readily available. (Tanner, after all, must keep his strength up as he walks the halls with Mr. G.)

Giglio pauses in the hallway and Tanner sits down beside him to wait. “What surprised me the most is the teacher response,” says Giglio. “There was a little hesitation at first, but then, when he’s there you can almost hear the blood pressure drop. To my surprise the teachers as well as the students have benefited,” says Giglio.

With that they are off, Tanner and Mr. G, head back to Latin class to get ready for their next class.

Giglio is a member of the Gloversville Teachers Association, led by Clint Wagner.

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