Mattie the dog is 8, the same age as many of the second-graders at Riverside Elementary School in Brainerd she visited with Tuesday at the school.
The female black Labrador dog visited the school with her owner, Gretchen Patrick, to share tips on how the second-graders can remain safe around pets.
Patrick, a veterinary technician at Lakeland Veterinary Hospital in Baxter, has been volunteering to speak to area second-graders about dog bite prevention and pet safety. Her dog is a canine good citizen certified through the Brainerd Kennel Club. With her easy disposition, Mattie is comfortable visiting in schools or nursing homes.
Patrick, a 2004 Brainerd High School graduate, has been training Mattie since the dog was 4 weeks old. The dog knows several hand and vocal signals and was Patrick's canine partner when she was involved in 4-H.
Patrick said Mattie gets excited when she sees the blue bag full of her teaching materials.
"She knows the blue bag means we're going to school," said Patrick.
So far Patrick and Mattie have spoken to students at Whittier, Garfield, Harrison, Riverside and an elementary school in Willmar. Patrick obtained her veterinary technician degree at Ridgewater College in Willmar in May. She has worked at Lakeland for six years. The veterinary hospital has encouraged Patrick to speak to students about preventing dog bites, something she enjoys doing.
"I think client education is a huge thing and the more people understand about pets the better off the pets are," said Patrick.
Patrick showed Riverside second-graders a video on pet safety and how they can judge whether a dog or cat is friendly or angry and should be avoided. She also shared with students how they could avoid getting hurt when confronted by stray dogs. Students appeared happy to be able to ask Mattie questions, which she answered by barking.
Patrick said she and Mattie would like to visit as many area elementary schools as they can, helping second-graders learn the importance of being safe around pets.
JODIE TWEED can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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