CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Amy Hicks and Daryl brought their new book to Blythe-Bower Elementary School on Wednesday to share what they learned from surviving tornadoes and other tough storms in life.
"Sit, Stay, Heal," subtitled "Surviving Life's Storms," is the second book Hicks and her canine team -- Daryl, Larry and Addie -- have written as counseling guides for kids. Hicks, the consolidated school health director for Cleveland city schools, is also the founder of a nonprofit organization, Helping Paws, Healing Hearts. Each school year, she and the dogs conduct other counseling sessions, including a grief camp for kids.
Children in Cleveland and Bradley County remember their own experiences from the devastating tornadoes of April 27, 2011, especially after more tornadoes returned this year in early March, and again Tuesday on television news from Texas.
"We had a hard time with that in March," Hicks said. "We had some kids here from Blue Springs [Elementary] who were really traumatized."
Blue Springs was one of the hardest-hit areas a year ago. The elementary school was so badly damaged, it had to be abandoned and demolished. Students from the school were sent to other Cleveland elementaries.
With kids sitting in the school hallways and the school locked down in March, Hicks and the kids shared stories about Larry, Daryl and Addie, all certified therapy dogs.
Hicks and the dogs know about tornadoes, too. She watched four family members' homes come apart a year ago and her own home was almost demolished around her.
"When it's in the news again, like yesterday, I tell the children, 'We can't live in fear all the time,'" Hicks said. "My home is fixed now, and we move on."
But the book, her second, is a good thing to come out of the storms, she said. It is written in the first-person with Daryl as the narrator. Trauma doesn't have to mean tornadoes, it can be about a death in the family, a divorce or moving to a new school, Daryl says in the book.
Fifth-graders gathered around Daryl on Wednesday as if he was a rock star. The dogs have been coming to Blythe-Bower, where Hicks has an office, for seven years now.
"Daryl is like your best friend," said student William Gatlin.
"They don't treat each other badly," said Holly McDaniel.
"They teach us how to be nice," added Angelina Soto.
The book was published by Pathway Press with funding support from the Cleveland Rotary Club Foundation and is available at the Museum Center at Five Points, Great Doggy Do's, Taylor Animal Clinic and the website www.helpingpawshealinghearts.com.
There is no printed cost to purchase the book. Donations are requested to support Helping Paws, Healing Hearts' twice-a-year grief camp and other services.