A new puppy has made life brighter at Heart Centered Montessori

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: VERN UYETAKE - Neve Riley, 2, plays visits Jude in Meg Gulgrens office.

When West Linn was hit with a smothering snowstorm in early February, Meg Gulgren had an unhappy puppy on her hands.

Gulgren, who is the director at Heart Centered Montessori School, was forced to stay at home as the school closed for three days due to the weather. That meant Jude, then a 4-month-old Parson Russell terrier, was also stuck at home as the school — his school — waited out the storm.

For a dog who adored his new role as a “school pet,” nothing could have been worse.”He doesn’t really like to be home,” Gulgren said. “ He doesn’t like weekends. They’re kind of boring — he likes the action.”

Gulgren first introduced Jude to the school back in December, the goal being to help young students learn to care for an animal while also training the puppy to become a permanent school pet.

“I’ve always had dogs,” Gulgren said. “It’s just part of childhood — children and dogs go so well together. When I opened the school, I always wanted to have animals.”

Heart Centered Montessori already had two outdoor cats and five hens, but the students had yet to experience the type of hands-on care required for Jude. Gulgren would take the puppy home at night and on weekends, but Jude would spend the majority of his time at school, learning and playing alongside the students.”Caring for animals is important work for kids to learn how to do,” Gulgren said. “(They learn) how to be gentle, to be kind and loving. And I think they learn a lot from each other — the kids learn a lot from being around the animals, and the animals give that unconditional love to the kids too.”

Gulgren was exacting in her selection process, making sure to find a dog with the perfect size and temperament for a school environment.

“I was looking for a breed that would specifically be good with children,” Gulgren said. “He is a big dog in a small body — as friendly and loving as a Lab, but smaller. Because the children here are young, and I wanted a smaller dog for the children.”

As advertised, Jude has proven to be calm and wise well beyond his years. In the months since she brought Jude to the school, Gulgren has observed the dog’s innate ability to interact with children and provide an extra dose of joy to the learning environment.

“He just wants to please,” Gulgren said. “He knows he has a job, I think. He knows that this is his job, and he gets it already. This is his purpose.”

Indeed, when Gulgren pulls into the school’s parking lot, Jude recognizes the building and lights up at the prospect of re-uniting with the students. He greets the families who walk their children to school, and sometimes there is even an impromptu rendition of The Beatles’ song, “Hey Jude.”

As Jude grows and matures, Gulgren envisions him in a less supervised role, moving around at his leisure both inside and outside the school.

“When the children play and someone falls down, he will go over there and it’s kind of an immediate response — ‘Oh, Jude’s here!’” Gulgren said. “If some of the little toddlers are sad, having a hard day, Jude can cheer them up. ... He’s always wagging his tail, so they’re always happy to see him.”

The response from families has been overwhelmingly positive, Gulgren said, especially for those who don’t have dogs of their own.”They love the idea of their kids getting to interact with dogs, with the dog not at home,” Gulgren said. “It’s been a really positive experience for everybody, and we’re looking forward to him getting older and knowing his place here more.”

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