EYOTA, Minn. – After the morning drop off but before the morning bell, students at Dover-Eyota Middle and High School get ready for class a little differently.
All thanks to their therapy dog, Charlie. He prances through the hallway greeting students.
“It’s our morning routine,” Katie Johnson, the school’s social worker, said.
Charlie belongs to Johnson. She first brought him to school three years ago.
“Overall, people are very accepting of him,” she said.
While everyone was accepting, Charlie wasn’t officially allowed.
“The school board decided we needed to have a policy. Which is fine, we do, so he got laid off,” Johnson said.
Charlie was out of his day job for a couple months, but it didn’t take long for him to get back to work. After researching the benefits of a therapy dog, the district created a policy to safely keep Charlie around.
“To bring happiness, comfort, stress management,” Johnson named just a few.
The benefits can easily be seen as Charlie wags his way down the hallways or if you ask students.
“Kids that have come in here and crying because they're having a bad day or whatever's going on in their life, and they pet Charlie, and it makes them a little bit better about their day,” Abby Lee, senior, said.
In addition to greeting students, Charlie read with students with special needs and sits in on meetings social worker, Johnson, has with students.
“It does a world of good for kids and adults. When kids are having a bad day and they see Charlie it seems to brighten their mood and brighten their day,” Johnson said.
Three-year-old Charlie is enjoying work and won’t be going anywhere soon.
“I've read that when a dog looks you in the eyes, they're giving you a hug and so he does that a lot with kids,” Johnson said.
Since Charlie is Johnson’s personal therapy dog, having him in school doesn’t cost anything for the district. He is also a hyperallergic breed. Johnson said she has yet to receive any complaints from student or staff who have allergies.
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