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Therapy dog starts work at Iowa middle school

November 25, 2018

FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) — Mellie, an 8-year-old golden Lab therapy dog starting her first year at the Fort Dodge Middle School, knows exactly who’s a good dog.

Mellie’s a good dog.

Her human, eighth-grade social studies teacher Glenda Paulson, thinks so too, and said that Mellie can do something that sometimes the humans can’t.

“Dogs are able to help students that are extremely anxious,” she told The Messenger . “She helps calm them down.”

Letting Mellie come to school with her as a therapy dog required some work.

Paulsonsaid Mellie has gone through several training courses and is registered as a therapy dog. She also had to get a veterinarian’s recommendation and, of course, the blessing of the school and the student’s parents.

“Principal Ryan Flaherty and Superintendent Jesse Ulrich were open to giving a therapy dog a try.” she said. “I had to get permission from each parent, then we had a trial period to see how she would do. We started out bringing her after school.”

Mellie prefers coming to school with all the humans to staying home.

“After the last couple of times she would whine to get out and come to school.” she said. “She’s ready to go.”

Just her being in the classroom helps, Paulson said.

“In the classroom.” she said. “Kids like having her there; it brings them comfort.”

Mellie spends time in the eighth-grade pod and also visits other areas, including students with special needs.

“She loves all kids.” she said.

Even the responsibility of letting Mellie go outside a few times a day to do the things that a dog needs to do outside has been an opportunity to teach about sharing and responsibility.

“We take turns. The kids fill out an online form for their turn.” she said. “They really enjoy being the designated person to take Mellie out for break.”

Mellie has a few favorite spots.

“She loves the cool tile in the team room.” Paulson said.

She also loves to lie under Paulson’s desk.

“There’s that cave-like atmosphere underneath.” she said.

Logan Schwieger, 13, enjoys Mellie’s company.

“It’s fun.” he said. “She’s cute.”

Kinzy Valley, 14, had an opportunity to help give Mellie some treats recently at the end of the school day.

Mellie is quite adept at catching them in the air and Valley enjoyed tossing them.

“It’s fun.” Valley said.

Mellie has a positive influence on the staff too.

Destiny Kizer, a seventh-grade language arts teacher, loves her.

“I feel happiness every time I see the dog,” she said. “Everyone just kind of relaxes when she’s around.”

Fort Dodge Middle School Principal Ryan Flaherty is happy to have her there too.

“Fort Dodge Middle School strives to find creative and innovative ways to meet the needs of all students.” he said. “Ms. Paulson and Mellie are one example of a way we are trying to reach students by providing a calming environment and teaching empathy through the use of a therapy dog.”

Paulson said that Mellie also offers an opportunity for students that don’t have experience with pets at home to gain some at school.

Mellie strives to be a good dog.

“She’s a good ambassador for dog kind,” Paulson said.

That’s because Mellie is a good dog.

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Information from: The Messenger, http://www.messengernews.net

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