Edgerton high school students learn alongside therapy dogs

Edgerton high school students learn alongside therapy dogs

Six high school students were able to relax and unwind for about an hour Tuesday morning while playing with two therapy dogs.

This was only the second visit the dogs had made to Edgerton High School, but alternative education teacher Kaitlyn McGillis said she’s already seen her students become more comfortable in the classroom.

“I see a total change of character,” McGillis said. “They go from kind of begrudging being here to excited, happy, much more talkative.”

Many of the students in the alternative education classroom have dogs at home, and they said coming to school is easier when they know they’ll be able to see the dogs.

“This morning I wasn’t feeling too good, and I was sick yesterday, and I came in and once the dogs come in, I felt a lot better,” senior Ethan Swenson said. “It just made me forget about being sick. It made me enjoy myself.”

McGillis said that’s the goal of having her students work with the pups.

“They tend to come to school with a lot more on their mind than just their school day. A lot come to school with home issues, family issues, friend issues,” she said. “I think the dogs do a really good job of helping them forget about that other stuff that’s going on in their life.”

Danny, a calm 5-year-old collie, and KC, an energetic 2-year-old cockapoo, visited the students Tuesday.

“These dogs adore kids. They like everything about kids,” handler Stephanie Smith said. “They want to be with them. If they could climb in bed with them and sleep with them, they would.”

The students petted, played, brushed and loved on Danny and KC as they got to know them better.

“Finding out their characteristics, their nature, everything. It’s fun,” junior Michael Lo said. “I don’t know a better way to describe it but just fun.”

The plan is to have a variety of dogs come to class once every other week. The students will be able to play outside with the dogs when it gets warmer, teach them tricks and make them homemade dog treats.

“Our main goal is to help the students feel empowered,” McGillis said.

Eventually, the hope is to tie the therapy dogs into classroom lessons so the students can get credit for working with the pooches.

“There’s a lot to the care of these dogs. There’s a lot to the training of the dogs, and the kids can help us with that. They can help the dogs be better,” Smith said.

The students say they are excited to learn more about and from the dogs.

“It’s just cool to see how dogs can be trained to help people,” Swenson said. “Like some help look for survivors when earthquakes and stuff happen, and some help kids in the classroom learn better.”

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