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DOG THERAPY

De-stressing with dogs Providing a paw-sitive presence

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By Corrin Bond

aura Maas, a math and computer science teacher at the Forrest M. Bird Charter School, believes that every little boy should know dogs have whiskers. Maas said she came to this conclusion her first year teaching at the school, during which a quiet, withdrawn student was enrolled in one of her math classes. The student, who came from a troubled home environment, struggled with social and academic anxiety. That same year, Maas began taking her long-haired dachshund mix, Widget, with her to class. After the student spent time with Widget over the course of her many class visits, Maas said she began to see a change in his behavior. “He really started to open up and talk with me; she to work with me,” Russell said. helped him with his anxiety,” “Everyone at work is so laid-back Maas said. with animals; we all kind of see As the student continued to them as therapy for the kids. grow more comfortable in the Some days, they can calm a sixthclassroom, Maas said she realgrade boy who’s bouncing off ized the importance of allowthe walls or a kid who’s having a ing dogs to be a part of the rough day. A dog just seems to school’s learning environment. bring a smile.” “One day, I was standing Since she first began visiting next to him and he was sitthe school, Wanda has helped stuting on the floor with her. He dents feel more at home in their reached down and said, ‘Ms. learning environment. She’s also Maas, I didn’t know dogs had Dogs Widget, the dachshund mix above right, and Wanda, the whiskers,’ ” Maas said. “It just golden retriever mix above, provide a sense of ease and add joy helped some students overcome their fear of dogs. tugged at my heartstrings. to some classrooms at Forrest M. Bird Charter School. PHOTOS BY “I had one kid who was very I was sitting there thinking, ETHAN SCHLUSSLER AND COURTESY SCHOOL STAFF scared of dogs and my dogs are Every little boy needs to know so mellow that now he seeks Wanda out,” Russell said. dogs have whiskers.” “One kid who actually cowered when he saw dogs; once Widget isn’t the only dog helping students feel more I introduced him to the dogs and he saw how gentle they comfortable and overcome anxiety at the charter school, were, now he likes them.” either. Russell said Wanda’s popularity extends beyond the Janenne Russell, who teaches physical education and classroom. health classes, brings her golden retriever mix, Wanda, to “I had one kid ask her to the dance,” Russell said. “He class with her most days. Russell, who used to have a second dog, first decided to said, ‘Can Wanda be my date to the dance?’ and I said, ‘Well, I don’t know about that,’ but they really connect bring her pets to work because she felt bad leaving them with the dogs.” home alone for a large portion of the day. When Jennifer Greve, the principal of the middle school, “They were home alone and they’re such social dogs was an English teacher, she brought her dog Nahe with that I thought they would get a lot more out of coming

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SANDPOINT MAGAZINE

080-104-Featurewell.indd 92

SUMMER 2016

5/11/16 9:03 AM

Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2016  

In this Issue: Dog Town, Idaho How people and their dogs have created Sandpoint’s copious canine culture Plus ‘Peaking’ Our Interest - Peak...

Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2016  

In this Issue: Dog Town, Idaho How people and their dogs have created Sandpoint’s copious canine culture Plus ‘Peaking’ Our Interest - Peak...