Classroom dog will be missed

  • By Sarah Koenig Enterprise reporter
  • Monday, October 20, 2008 12:24pm

Abby Russell wasn’t the kind of dog who’d jump on you the minute you came in the door. She’d come over, cock her head as if to say “pet me” and walk away if you didn’t.

“If the person was not a dog person, she’d keep looking,” said Abby’s owner Therese Russell. “She’ll go from person to person till she gets enough love.”

Abby died Friday, Oct. 10 of advanced lymphoma cancer.

Her quietly affectionate attitude endeared the golden retriever to the students in Russell’s self-contained special education classes at Ridgecrest Elementary, Lake Forest Park Elementary and Brookside Elementary for 12 years.

Abby came to school with Russell every day as a “therapy” dog for the students, albeit one with “on the job training.”

She was an integral part of the schools she worked at — posing for staff photos, playing tug of war at Field Day, joining the PTA. She had her own Shoreline School District identification badge.

In class Wednesday, Oct. 15, students shared memories of how Abby used to be able to flip a dog biscuit from her nose into her mouth. She’d open her own presents at her yearly birthday party. She’d bring the mail back from the office in her mouth.

Then there was the time students thought it would be a good idea to teach her to jump over two chairs.

“She’s really friendly to everyone she meets,” said student Breanna Garlock. “She’s a playful dog.”

Russell broke the news to her students Monday, Oct. 13. She showed them a slide show with photos of Abby: Abby chewing up a series of stuffed animals, going down a slide, posing from the front and side.

“We asked Mrs. Russell why she was putting on the slide show, then I cried, then Mrs. Russell cried,” said student Austin Magpantay.

That day, students wrote notes to Abby, attached them to balloons and released them into the sky. E-mails of condolence and flowers poured in when other teachers heard the news.

Technically, the district instituted a “no pets” policy a while back, but Abby was “grandfathered in”, Russell said.

Brenda Cheeney, a student teacher in Russell’s room, saw Abby calm students down when they were upset or started to veer out of control. Some of the students in the room are autistic, but communicated well with Abby.

“She was someone they could go to because they were not judged by her,” Russell said. “The kids would come up with a problem and I would say, ‘Go tell Abby.’”

Already, the students are asking to hear Abby stories – like the time she slept under the bed and Russell was frantic to find her, or the time she snuck off to the beach with neighborhood kids.

“She’ll be missed,” Russell said, with tears in her eyes.

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