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Therapy dog teaches life lessons at Onalaska Elementary School

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ONALASKA, Wis. (WXOW) –  The health benefits of having a dog are well documented; from a healthier heart to lower stress levels, dog owners can reap the benefits.

At Northern Hills Elementary School in Onalaska, there’s a new four-legged student hoping to help kids cope and gain some of those benefits.

As we enter the second week of school for many local children, hopefully the first day jitters have surpassed and kids are back into their school routine, but those negative feelings may still linger.

Second grade teacher Diane Hill is in her 21st year of teaching, 13 of those have been spent at Northern Hills Elementary School. Mrs. Hill knows how kids can feel on the first day, “especially at the beginning of the year kids are anxious and nervous.”

To help calm those nerves, she’s bringing her dog Davie to school.

Davie, a 4-year-old English Cream Golden Retriever, is a certified therapy dog, trained to help humans in stressful situations.

Only a few days into her new job, she is already feeling right at home and helping students get through the day with a smile and maybe a distraction.

“I like having a dog in the classroom because sometimes she walks right by my seat and I can just pet her instead of working,” said 2nd grader Jaela Mayne with a laugh.

While Davie is working, she’s showing the students what empathy looks like. She’s even going above and beyond her duties in the classroom.

Student Sylar Davis told the story of how Davie heard another student crying in the hallway and went out to comfort her.

From greeting students in the hall to story time, the lessons learned from Davie translate outside of the classroom too.
“She treats others with respect,” said 2nd grader Neveah Clancy. Every student can feel special when spending time with Davie especially “with some of our special needs kids who need that love and comfort,” said Mrs. Hill.

Life lessons only a four legged teacher could get across so well to her two legged students.

Davie has an older sister at home, Harley is also a therapy dog. Harley visits a local nursing home. There is also a therapy dog on staff at Onalaska High School.

Brittany Lake

Daybreak Anchor

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