Students and dogs attend school in Eldridge

Haven relaxes while 3rd grade students work
Haven relaxes while 3rd grade students work

ELDRIDGE, Iowa (KWQC) — A QCA school district is retiring the age-old excuse: the dog ate my homework. Actually, students in Eldridge aren’t blaming the dog for anything. Hounds are held to a high standard at Ed White Elementary School.

“There are a lot of situations that come up and emotional needs that come up, very frequently.” Ann Schneckloth teaches at Ed White Elementary. She sees kids struggling with homework, tests, problems at home, even conflicts in the classroom.

Natalie Naber is in 6th grade. She said it can be hard to find the right person to talk to, “Sometimes you don’t want to tell your friends stuff. If I had a dog I would probably tell it all my secrets and pretend to talk to it.” It’s a great idea but Naber can’t have a dog at home.

“My sister is allergic.”

She can have one at school, though. Along with hundreds of students, there’s a dog roaming the halls at Ed White Elementary School. Her name is Molly and she’s a therapy dog.”

“It’s good to have her around because she makes people excited,” said Samuel Kook, 2nd grade. Kook can’t imagine walking the halls without catching a glimpse of Molly.

“She’s a good dog and she’s funny. Really funny,” Kook said. “She’s soft and you can pet her and make you feel better.” But the therapy dog program at Ed White Elemetary didn’t start with Molly.

“When we had Champ, the last dog, he was an amazing impact not only on our school but on the community,” said Lorri Gettes, school counselor. Champ was the original therapy dog.

“We still have pictures of Champ throughout the building,” Schneckloth said. “He’s our motto, be a champ today, for our students.” But Champ suddenly got sick and passed away last year.

“He made me feel safe,” said Naber, “and when I heard that he passed away I was very sad because he was like my best friend.”

“When he died, the whole community was mourning,” Gettes said. That’s when Molly stepped in.

“She had already been trained,” Schneckloth said. “She was kind of an unemployed therapy dog.”

And now, there’s a new dog in town. Haven is just a year old and she’s got that puppy spunk.

“If I had my way we’d have a therapy dog in every classroom,” Gettes said. Molly isn’t going anywhere, either. Each dog has her own homeroom. Molly is in 6th grade and Haven is starting school in a third grade class.

“Now that we get to have two dogs, Haven will be much more available to kids and so will Molly,” said Gettes. The dogs also spend a lot of time with guidance counselors and students that need some extra puppy love. “I walk a therapy dog in and their entire demeanor changes. Our therapy dogs are all very good at helping kids feel comfortable, safe and relaxed.”

Not to mention, the ladies are good at keeping secrets.

“They can’t tell anyone because they can’t speak,” Kook said. “I mean, they can speak dog language but they can’t speak human language.”

The PTA funded half the purchase of the new therapy dog, Haven, and the Lions Club paid for the other half. The Scott County Animal Hospital provides the dog’s food and health care.

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