May / June 2023 • OKC Pets 27 She takes so long to open the car door and my dog crate! I always need to potty badly after a long car ride. The parking lot seems way bigger than I remember. The moment my feet reach the grass, I stop and squat. I feel much better. We walk up to the school’s front door, and Mom speaks into a box on the wall. “Can I help you?” a mysterious voice asks. Mom says, “I’m Sheri Wetekam. I’m here with Hazel, my certified therapy dog, to visit Geri Mentzer’s second-graders.” There is a buzzing sound, and the doors open. After meeting with the school staff, Mom reaches down and pets me. Wow, that feels good! Then we walk down the long hall to- wards the classroom. I hear the chatter and giggles of students behind closed doors and can’t wait to visit the second-graders. I love seeing the loud and giggly tiny people. When we enter the classroom, the stu- dents shout, “Hazel is here!” Once again, I wiggle and give them a soft “Hello” bark. Mom says I shouldn’t bark in class, but I can’t help it. I get excited seeing the students wave their arms around, all of them hoping they get to read to me. My colorful vest and pointy party hat make me look cool as I walk through the rows of tiny desks with the outstretched arms of students eager to pet me. One student pets me with sticky fingers that smell like food. It makes me hungry. My stomach rumbles. I have a keen sense of smell and can tell when someone is sad or having a tough day. When that happens, I let those students pet me longer, hoping it makes them have a better day. Reading Partners My favorite thing about the classroom is the reading area. It is in a carpeted corner and gives me a place to lie down behind a book- case, which protects the small, quiet space from the main classroom chatter. The teacher tells Mom the names of the students who need extra help with reading, spelling, or math. While she and Mom are talking, I sneak a peek at the students wav- ing at me, and I start my Aussie wiggle. Mom looks down at me and says, “Hold on, Hazel, I’m almost through talking.” I ignore her. After Mom finishes talking to the teach- er, she says, “Let’s go for a walk, Hazel.” Excitedly, I turn and start to walk back through the crowded classroom of students sitting at tiny desks and tables. Once again, the giggling students reach out to pet me as I pass, including the one with sticky fingers. Shortly after we reach the reading area, the students that the teacher told Mom about come over and pick books off the bookshelf. They sit on the floor next to me. One student takes a book, lies on the floor, and uses me as a reading pillow. It makes me feel good knowing I am their comfort reading partner. For the next hour, each student takes a turn reading to me. If the students get stuck, Mom helps them sound out the words so they will remember them. Some- times, one of the students will reach down, pet me, and say, “I love you.” I never tire of hearing those words. Fun and Games After reading, each student takes a colorful box of crayons and drawing paper from the bookshelf. They draw whatever they like. Some draw pictures of their families, houses, or pets. Others draw pictures filled with random things such as spaceships, trees, people, or food. Sometimes a student snickers, holds the masterpiece up to my nose, and tilts it from side to side so I can get a better view. I pretend to get dizzy, and I roll on my back, hoping to get my favorite belly rubs. It works every time. One student pushes back my lips to see my teeth and says, “Look, Hazel is smiling!” They all laugh. Another student tickles my toes and teases me with sniffs of the snacks Mom brought for the class. That makes me hungrier. Before things get too silly, Mom fetches a sight word card game from the bookshelf. It is a game in which the students play against me on one team. They earn a point for each word they say correctly. Otherwise, I win the game point, and the student must put A hat and goggles protect Hazel from the sun and wind during a spin in her remote-controlled car.