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Gotta Love Dogs!

As I finish my first week back taking mid-days, a.k.a. kindergarten/preschool routes, for the first time in almost five years, I was reminded that kids come with all types of chaperones.

Sometimes it is Mom or Dad. Other times it could be an older sibling or grandparent. It can even be a daycare provider or friend. The one chaperone that is always cute and unpredictable is one in the form of a canine. I came across this type of chaperone this week on one of the mid-days I was driving.

I was driving the route and I was about five minutes early, so I pulled over in front of the student’s house and I put on my hazards and honked my horn to let the parent know that I was there.With this being a preschool route I am required to get out of my seat and help the student get all buckled in. So, I unbuckle and wait sitting sideways in my seat until the student comes out.

The parent communicated back by opening the door and keeping it open while she got the student ready for preschool. I know this because she made me wait the five minutes that I was early while she brushed the young girl’s hair, washed her face, put on her jacket and shoes then looked for the backpack that was so desperately needed. By this time, the student was out on the porch looking back at her mother like “Hurry up, I want to go!”

Waiting with the student was a black lab mix that was about six months old. The dog kept looking into the house at Mom and back at the student wondering which way it should go. Once the mother handed the little girl her backpack, she walked down the sidewalk toward the bus. She then stopped at the door of the bus turned around waved at Mom and told the black lab “Midnight” to go!

The little girl preceded to get on the bus. I stand up to help her and then I watch Midnight outside of the bus as he watched the girl go onto the bus and down the aisle. Midnight then looked at Mom on the porch and turned back to the bus and continued to get on! I acted quickly by squatting down like a football quarterback waiting for the snap with my heels together blocking the aisle. Meanwhile, the Mom runs out of the house then grabs the dog’s collar, which is too big and slides right off Midnight’s head while I am pushing him off the bus.

We finally got Midnight off, then I realized I had caught my jeans on the bus metal bracket that holds the door release handle and put a hole in my jeans. “Oh great,” I say as I get the little girl all buckled into her seat. This was funny and an out-of-the-ordinary situation. One of the reasons I needed to act so quickly was because, not knowing this dog, which seemed sweet, he may have acted differently with me and the other students. In addition, how would the other students react? Had they had bad experiences with other dogs or were they allergic? You just never know what can happen.

I am glad that this ended up being just a cute story that I was able to share. Yet, by having this happen, I then think about another student on my regular everyday route. This student is a first grader, and his house sits back about half a football field away from the road. His canine chaperone is a black pit-bull mix female named “Bella.” She walks or runs with him to the end of the driveway and up to the bus door. She checks that he gets on and waits for me to close the doors before returning to the house. She then will do the same in the afternoon. It just makes me smile and realize what a great, loving dog she is.

Then you have the ones that are what I call “micro dogs,” the ones that people carry or the ones, like Jack Russell terriers, that run circles around the students as they are trying to catch them. I came across this type of canine a couple of years ago when it had broken out of the house like a jail break. The kids start chasing it in hopes of getting it back into the house before having to board the bus. Here is this dog just running hula hoop circles around this kid, and then the other students at the stop decide to help.

As I am pulling up to the stop, I see this slew of kids running around in circles chasing this dog that is going mach speed around them…it is a huge cat and mouse race! As I slow down to make the stop, the dog runs behind my front wheels under the bus then through to the other side. All I could do was stop quickly, hold my breath and wish for the best. The last thing I needed was to have 20 elementary kids watch a dog get squished under bus tires at 8:30 a.m. before school.

Thank goodness I reacted in time and all was OK. The parent was able to grab the dog, and we were off to school with a great story to tell.

Christe Smith is a school bus driver for the Olympia School District in Olympia, Wash. She has been enjoying driving a bus for the past 10 years and has experienced many events that she has decided to share with the rest of the STN readers. You may also view her blog at Life as a School Bus Driver.

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