By Sue Moore
“He’s loving me because he just kissed me,” exclaimed Hudson Willoughby, a three year old attending the Common Bond gathering in Amy Green’s classroom in Schoolcraft schools.
Willoughby was the recipient of Champ’s love. Champ is a golden retriever puppy who was invited by Green to come to her monthly party for Common Bond students. Members play group games, enjoy music and refreshments each month during the school year. Common Bond is an extra-curricular club that matches student mentors with students with challenges attending Schoolcraft High and Middle Schools. Students were able to spend lots of time with Champ petting him, practicing tricks with him, and walking him on his leash. Smiles were had by all, according to Green.
Champ’s owner is Amy Seager, wife of Ric Seager, Schoolcraft high school principal. The Common Bond party was built around Champ with the goal for all the students and their mentors to blend together. The parties help the students interact so they can’t tell that anyone’s ability stands out against another. Seager, who has had plenty of challenges due to illness, was a reading specialist at Kalamazoo Central High School and an Instructional Literacy Coach at Sturgis Public Schools before she retired.
Ric and Amy have had several golden retrievers in the family going back 15 years. When Amy was diagnosed with third stage ovarian cancer, they figured it was time to add to the family’s menagerie, which includes two-year old Drake, also a golden retriever. Champ is in training to be a therapy dog and it’s clear he already has this task readily in hand, showing his patience and love for children at the Common Bond party. When he is fully trained, Seager plans to take him to the West Michigan Cancer Center and other schools where the six-month old puppy can strut his stuff.
“Dogs can bring a sense of calm,” Seager explained. “The kids were very gentle with Champ, so it’s easy for him to return their love.” About 75 students in middle and high school in Schoolcraft are members of Common Bond. Many serve as mentors for the 10 kids in Green’s classroom, which centers around those in the school with special needs.