Therapy dogs do wonderful work for people who are in hospitals, senior care centers and other locations. One such therapy dog is Lola, a five pound very special yorkie. Lola is a certified therapy dog who tours the country visiting with autistic children mostly–and she also has a book series that helps ALL children navigate through life’s obstacles and what they perceive to be “scary”– such as visiting the doctor, the first day of school, etc… Lola’s books are aimed at teaching all kids about these challenges and how to overcome them. The latest book, “Lola Goes to School” is set to come out in July.
Lola’s owner, Marcia Goldman has her Master’s Degree in Special Education and has spent the last 25 years focusing on providing therapeutic-based programs for children with autism and their families. She tours the country with Lola and the books are featured in hundreds of libraries and independent book stores nationwide. The books are aimed at helping children navigate through various stressful scenarios. To date, the books in the series include
• “Lola Goes to Work”– Meet Lola, a little terrier with a big job. Children will identify with the feisty Lola as she struggles going to school, passing tests, and finally achieving her Big Dog dream. If Lola can make it in a world of Great Danes and Labradors, so can anybody who’s feeling like a runt. The book shows children how through hard work and determination, anyone can achieve their goals.
• “Lola Goes to the Doctor”– Lola is nervous about going to the doctor, but discovers she’s a bigger dog than she thought.
• “Lola & Tattletale Zeke”–Tattling is a huge issue, especially in kindergarten/1st grade and there are no picture books dealing with the subject. Lola and Tattletale Zeke offers a jumping-off point for classroom and family discussions.
• “Lola Goes to School”–Available in July, children will identify with Lola as she faces first-day-of-school jitters.
Lola happily participated in the making of these books with her human mommy, Marcia Goldman.
Recently, Marcia spoke to the Examiner about her experiences working with Lola and her hopes for the future:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): How did you and Lola find each other?
Marcia Goldman (M.G.): I was attending a party and people kept coming up to the woman I was talking to and asking her how her puppies were. Her response was that they were too young, might not survive and didn’t want to talk about them. I finally asked, what kind of puppies are we NOT talking about? Her answer, Yorkshire Terriers. She had one female and one male and I heard myself say, IF they survive I would like the female. I really didn’t need another pet, with one large chocolate lab and three cats at home, but when she called me several weeks later to say the female was mine, I rushed over a to meet her and instantly fell in love.
M.M.: When did you decide to make Lola a therapy dog?
M.G.: It happened during a quiet lunch with a friend over a discussion about meaningfully filling one’s time. She shared with me her favorite activity, which was visiting schools and summer camps with her black lab, Jake. Jake is a therapy dog, and it sounded like Jake did all of the work while my friend tagged along. I knew about therapy dogs, but I didn’t know if only certain breeds were used or how one became trained and qualified. I asked a few questions, and as my friend talked about the work they did together, I had an epiphany. I love my dog, I spent 30 years as a special education teacher, and if I combined the two, what better way to legitimize spending all day with my dog?
M.M.: Why did you start your children’s book series? What was the process of finding a publisher like?
M.G.: Lola and I initially started by visiting a preschool program for children with Autism. She and I would greet the children during circle time, and then I would read to them. I realized how much more impactful it would be for the children if they heard a story about the dog that was right in front of them. I searched on-line and in bookstores, but I couldn’t find anything that had a dog that looked like Lola. I also knew that, for young children on the spectrum, photographs would be more meaningful than illustrations. I decided to create my own book! I had never written a story book, nor was I very good with a camera, but the children were my inspiration and Lola was a willing participant, with a little help from doggie treats and string cheese. It started out as a home project, but with guidance and encouragement, the original plan turned into a wonderful writing adventure for both of us. I was very lucky to have found my publisher. A friend and colleague had seen my first books in the autism classroom and suggested them to her sister, Marissa Moss, a renowned children’s author who had recently decided to start a small publishing company, Creston Books. I am so grateful to her for believing in the power of Lola’s stories and being willing to take a risk on a first time author!
M.M.: To date, what has been the most rewarding experience involving your work with Lola?
M.G.: Lola loves being a therapy dog and as soon as I tell her it’s time for work, she is eager to get her scarf on and head to the car. I have seen the power of therapy dogs as she cuddles in the lap of someone in a wheelchair, calms an anxious child with autism, or encourages a child who is unwilling to read aloud, to do so to one small dog. Just to see her bring a smile to an elderly person’s face is a wonder to behold. Her work in the autism classrooms has shown her uncanny ability to understand the emotional needs of others and I have witnessed a child who doesn’t talk, to speak aloud to Lola. One day, I received a letter from a parent whose child had been quite reluctant to pet Lola but over the few months of our visits, had willingly joined the circle and engaged with her. This family’s other child loved the petting zoo, but the family had never been able to go together because their child on the spectrum was terrified. After hearing him talk about petting Lola in class, they decided to see what would happen if they took him to the zoo. It was a success, he was no longer afraid, and, for the first time, they were able to go as a family.
I know that Lola loves what she does, but the real secret is, so do I. She may be the one doing the work, but I am the one that gets to go with her. And my life is richer for it.
M.M.: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to make their pet a therapy animal?
M.G.: There was initial concern that she was too small, and that her small dog temperament, possibly being nervous around strangers, might not be a good fit. I assured everyone that although Lola was small, she didn’t know it. And she loved people – big, small, young, old, she was always happy to meet someone new. She also seemed to intuitively know when someone needed an extra lick or cuddle. The training to become a therapy dog was not quick or easy. Lola had to go through two levels of obedience school, handle the Canine Good Citizenship test, and then pass the behavior screening. Throughout the process, Lola and I were warned that she might not succeed. But we were both determined, and as we approached the final test, I was confident that I had a star pupil and that she would make it with flying colors. And pass she did. My advice to anyone considering going through this process, do it and you will be glad you did!
M.M.: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?
M.G.: Presently there are three books in the series, “Lola Goes To Work,” “Lola Goes To The Doctor” and “Lola and Tattletale Zeke.” I am very excited to have our fourth book, “Lola Goes To School,” available this July. It is Lola’s first day at Doggy Daycare. Like anyone new to preschool or kindergarten, she’s a little bit nervous, a little bit scared, and very excited. All the books are available at Amazon and at www.indiebound.org as well as at local independent book stores nationwide.
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To learn more, visit Lola and Marcia’s official website and follow Lola’s adventures on her social channels Facebook Instagram Twitter.