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Reading goes to the dogs


NORFOLK — Students from Botelle Elementary School took time out of their studies on Thursday, March 6, to share their favorite book with two therapy dogs that visit the school on a monthly basis — Remi and Buddy. The visit was part of the students’ reward for meeting their own reading goals during the Get Fired Up About Reading Program last month.

Maryann Beauchene, owner of the two dogs and coordinator of the reading program, is the Botelle School’s media specialist. In her free time, she brings the two dogs to the elementary school to work with two of the special education students.

"The way I started was my parents were put into assisted living. We had always had animals and I thought they would be more comfortable if they were around animals," said Beauchene. "I was bringing [Remi] into the assisted living for three years and then I just brought him in [to school] on a whim."

Remi, 4, is a standard poodle that has completed several training programs to work as a therapy dog through Therapy Dogs Inc. in Idaho. His other training including the Canine Good Citizen Certification and Rally Novice Obedience from the AKC. He also earned his confirmation championship from the UKC. His son, Buddy, 2, is currently earning his certifications to follow in his father’s footsteps.

To date, Beauchene has seen some amazing results from the students’ interaction with her dogs.

"We have severely handicapped students at the school. When I had gone in to visit these three students with Remi, I didn’t realize that one was tactically defensive. The boy had his hands in Remi’s fur and the nurse got all excited," said Beauchene. Since then the boy and Remi have become the best of friends and the boy has become less defensive. Buddy has made friends with one of the female students and hangs out with her when he visits the school.

"These are things that you hear of that don’t happen to you," said Beauchene.

In recent years, many studies have been conducted to identify the relationship between pets and people. Decreases in blood pressure, stress and depression have all been linked to animal interaction and many nursing and assisted living facilities have begun to allow pets to stay with their owners. Other studies with children and pets have indicated that when children read to an animal, their reading skills dramatically improve.

"Children who might be hesitant, embarrassed or shy about their reading abilities feel at ease around a dog who is just there to listen to the story and not there to judge how well he or she reads," states the Therapy Dogs Inc. Web site.

Beauchene is in the process of seeking approval for a reading program at the Botelle School with her dogs, called Paws for Reading, as a way to help the students who may be struggling with their reading skills. Beauchene is confident that a student/dog reading program will be beneficial for her students and knows that her dogs will enjoy it as well.

"I enjoy working with my dogs rather than just having the dogs hanging around the house. These are the fun things that my dogs and I can do together," said Beauchene.


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