Dodger, the Lab School’s newest student is a one year old, 17-lb Blue Beagle.
Dodger is working on his training to become a therapy dog, a process that will take almost three years. His sister, Brooklyn, a three-year-old, 110-lb Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, has finished her trained and has worked as a therapy dog in Indianapolis Public Schools since she was six months old. Dodger just started working in schools at the end of the last school year.
Both dogs work at the school with their owner, school social worker, Lori Kurtz. Dodger and Brooklyn visit classrooms and assist the students with reading, writing, anger management and social skills.
“I believe the dogs help bridge the gap between the students’ different levels of social skills,” says Kurtz. “They teach unconditional love and empathy. They are often able to calm fears, anxieties and anger in students that we as people aren’t always capable of doing.”
Brooklyn and Dodger are also often incorporated into classroom lessons adding additional motivation to student achievement. Some students tend to feel more comfortable reading to the dogs or opening up to the dogs says Kurtz.
“The dogs definitely bring more joy to an already joyful building,” says Lab School teacher Marissa Argus. “Our kids are eager to get to know the dogs and spend more time with them!”
As the students arrive at school in the morning they swarm Kurtz and Dodger. It’s a sea of hands and Dodger happily lets everyone pet him. “His ears are so soft,” says one student.” “They’re long like a bunny rabbits’,” says another.
“I’ve worked with several of the shy students to get them to pet him,” says Kurtz. “We’ve definitely had a few breakthroughs.”
Brooklyn and Dodger will also have a mailbox stationed outside the school’s main office so the students can send them letters and pictures. In their short time working in the schools the dogs have received over 1,000 pieces of mail! With the assistance of Kurtz, every letter is answered on behalf of the dogs.
“I love seeing the smile on the students’ faces when they see that one of the dogs is with me,” says Kurtz.
Looks like it’s shaping up to be a fun year at the Lab School for their newest classmates!