Therapy dog brightens students’ days at Paddock Lane

October 6, 2018
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Rosco sits and listens to Paddock Lane second-grader Skylar Simmons as he reads "The Koala Who Could," on Thursday. Students can read and talk to Rosco, a brown Labrador, who serves as the school's therapy dog.

There’s an unusual guest periodically roaming the halls at Paddock Lane Elementary School in Beatrice.

Rosco the chocolate Labrador roams the hallways with students and seems adept at brightening their day. Rosco, a certified therapy dog, can be found mainly in the special education room along with elementary skills teacher, Jennifer Haynes.

Haynes is Rosco’s owner and trainer and has had Rosco since he was 8 weeks old. She has been bringing him to the school off and on since he was a puppy.

“I picked him up as a puppy because I wanted him kind of engrossed around kids,” she said.

Rosco then had to go through training for him to be allowed into the school full time. Haynes started taking him to Omaha weekly for training when he was 8 weeks old. This supplemented continuous training at home, as well.

When Rosco finished his training in Omaha, Haynes took him to a class in Auburn weekly.

When he reached his first birthday, Rosco was able to take the Good Canine Citizen test. Rosco had to prove he could sit, not jump on or bark at people and be able to walk through a crowd easily. This past March, Rosco was officially allowed to be in the school full time.

Rosco visited the school every day at the end of the school year and over the summer break.

Haynes said she took him everywhere to make sure he kept up on his training. But he is slowly easing himself back into his routine at school, coming only on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Haynes said.

“It’s still a little different than having to come to school every day and have to follow a more structured routine,” Haynes said. “But it’s been a little harder to get into the groove of things, but he has come around and doing much better again.”

While he is at school, Rosco spends most of his time with the special education students. Haynes said she has noticed improvements right away when Rosco joined her at school.

He’s even helped students calm down faster as well as improved their academics, Haynes said.

Second-grader Skylar Simmons likes to read to Rosco.

He said that Rosco sits still for him while he is reading him a book.

“We’ve seen huge improvements with nonverbal students being able to learn the commands to call him over,” Haynes said. Students that refused to read will read to him, so [we’re] seeing huge academic progress because they are willing to do things for the dog.”

Not only is Rosco good for therapy, but he also teaches the students about responsibility, Haynes said.

The students have learned what it’s like to take care of a pet. They help Rosco by getting him food and water, as well as noticing when he needs to go outside.

Rosco has been a great asset to the Paddock Lane community, Haynes said. Not only does Rosco work with special education students, he also helps other students as well.

Teachers will even request that Haynes bring Rosco into their rooms for a moment so he can spend time their students.

“He provides the therapy to the staff, and the teachers [say] ‘oh bring Rosco in for a few minutes,’ so it’s kind of helped the whole atmosphere,” Haynes said.

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