Therapy dog team has spent about 2,000 hours helping

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- They say dogs are man's best friend, but Gunnar is everyone's.

"He's just as loyal as can be," said Gunnar's owner, Pete Larson.

Larson is also Gunnar's partner going on six years. You see, they're a therapy dog team.

"The main thing that therapy dogs bring to the table is unconditional love," said Larson. "They're non-judgmental. They make people smile."

And make people feel better, physically. Hanging with a dogs can lower blood pressure and help cheer up those in the hospital. Gunnar's specialty? Larson says his partner has a knack for helping kids learn to read.

"He meets, one-on-one, with students that are having trouble with their reading," said Larson. "It helps them to relax and also have fun."

Teachers who've seen Gunnar and Larson in action say the therapy dog really helps. Gunnar gives kids a reading buddy that won't stress them out.

"They're relaxed," said Donna Smrha, a former substitute teacher. "It's fun. The dog listens. When those big eyes look up at you... It'll bring a tear to your eye."

Larson estimates he and his pup have spent about 2,000 hours helping kids read or doing other doggone good deeds as a therapy team. Larson says he'll keep at it as long as he can.

"I'm just the guy who holds the other end of the leash," said Larson.