This story appeared in the May 29, 2018 edition of the Cortland Standard. To become a subscriber, email us, or call us at (607) 756-5665. Back issues available by request.
With her head low and tail wagging, Cinnamon dutifully makes her rounds of a Cortland day care each morning, leaving squeals of delight in her wake.
It’s no ordinary walk. It’s become a morning routine to which the children — and Cinnamon — look forward.
Cinnamon’s daily routine is a loop around the Child Development Center on Pomeroy Street, where she approaches every window or fence where children are gathered, and stops for a brief visit.
Cinnamon sniffs hands (her nose is always going), lets inquisitive fingers reach to her through the fence, sits at her owner’s command, and eats a treat: all to a raptured pre-school audience.
On a recent day, a group of 2-year-olds ran full-speed to the fence as soon as they glimpsed Cinnamon walking over, huddling to get closer to the chocolate labrador/golden retriever mix.
There were calls of “good doggie” and squeals of glee as Cinnamon took treats from little hands and sat on command.
Cinnamon’s owner, Sandy Cardillo, has been bringing her over for these daily visits for years; it’s just part of their routine now. Cinnamon, now almost 12, has slowed down some, sniffing everything along the way, as they amble on their mile-long morning walk.
“At this point she’s more of a stroller than a walker,” Cardillo said.
Cardillo got Cinnamon at 3 after she had inquiries out to the Golden Retriever Rescue of Central New York. She got her from a household that was giving her up due to allergies.
It was quick. The rescue group couldn’t take Cinnamon because she wasn’t purebred, so after Cardillo assured them she didn’t mind some lab in the mix, they delivered Cinnamon to her doorstep directly from the home she was leaving.
Cinnamon is a Golden retriever-chocolate Labrador retriever mix who has been visiting children at the Child Development Center on Pomeroy Street in Cortland for years.
Cardillo quickly realized Cinnamon loved little children. Her ears would perk up even hearing a crying baby on the television, she said.
“She likes little kids because there were little kids in the home and I was afraid she would miss that, but she’s done very well,” Cardillo said.
And the benefits of the walk go both ways — Cinnamon gets some exercise, treats and little kid attention, and the children get to see a dog up close.
Linda Grisel, Universal Pre-Kindergarten teacher and supervising teacher at the center, said there is a pet-care unit at the Pre-K level, so Cinnamon’s visits have enhanced that curriculum.
At each visit around the center, Cardillo will have Cinnamon sit for a treat, sometimes shake a paw, and she’ll answer any questions the youngsters have.
“Sandy’s wonderful at explaining dog behavior, grooming and exercise needs and nutrition needs. Because kids are inquisitive and ask lots of questions and she’s patient in answering them,” said Grisel.
She remembers how it all started about six years ago.
“While she (Cardillo) was walking Cinnamon, she noticed the kids had an interest in Cinnamon, they would run to the window, sometimes wave or start shouting, ‘doggie, doggie!,’” said Grisel. “And out of the kindness of her heart she would approach the window and ask permission, ‘Is it OK? Is it disruptive?’ and the teachers were like, ‘No, it’s great,’ so it’s become a daily routine.”
Recently Cardillo even provided a Powerpoint presentation about “A day in the life of Cinnamon,” which the day care used to teach children about caring for a dog.
The presentation highlights Cinnamon’s love of everything from hikes and walks and swimming to UPS drivers.
Often Cinnamon’s visit at the day care center will invite conversation about the children’s pets, said Grisel, as they clamor to inform Cardillo of names of beloved pets in their own household.
Cinnamon and Cardillo have even visited to read to the youngsters, a story time that also included some explanations about dog behavior and how to be gentle with a pet, especially an aging one — Cinnamon’s older joints now have arthritis, which Cardillo treats with acupuncture.
“They learned a lot about aging,” Grisel said.
Cardillo said she will keep the walks going as long as Cinnamon can tolerate them. After all, the walks, she said, bring a smile to her face and are the highlight of Cinnamon’s day
She described Cinnamon as very sweet, a loving companion to her throughout the years.
“She’s very special to me,” Cardillo said.