It’s a Monday morning and an extremely well-behaved, part black Labrador mutt named Sunday is ready for her favorite weekly outing.
Sunday’s special bandana adorns her neck and her owner, Jessica Bunting, has packed the dog treats. The rescue pup hears the command and together they depart their Wagon Wheel Road home.
Across town, the Developmental Day School students at The Professional Center for Child Development on Osgood Street are just as excited for the visit from their canine friend.
Therapists assist the students out of their wheelchairs and they all comfortably gather on the floor and await Sunday’s arrival.
Within minutes, Bunting is sniffing out dog treats tucked near the collars of the students’ shirts. The students squeal with delight as Sunday’s two front paws rest gently on their shoulders, tickling them as she retrieves each treat.
“I just love hearing those sounds,” said Bunting, a licensed pet therapist. “That’s what keeps us coming here ... to see the kids so happy, squealing with laughter. Plus, there is a wonderful staff here.”
Bunting first came to the Professional Center for Child Development when her then-newborn son needed physical therapy.
“His neck and shoulder muscles were underdeveloped so that’s how we found the center,” she said.
Ten years later, the center remains a major part of her life — thanks to Sunday and her previous therapy dog, Berkley.
Bunting is one of two mothers recognized by the school this year with its Children First Award. The awards are presented annually to an individual or organization that enhances the lives of children through hard work and dedication.
For the past 41 years, the Professional Center for Child Development has provided educational, therapeutic and social services to children of all abilities, from birth to age 11. The center’s goal is to help children achieve their full potential.