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School therapy dogs motivate kids at College Community Schools

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The College Community school district is expanding a program that teachers say is making a difference.

Prairie schools have eight therapy dogs. Teachers said the ninth is scheduled to arrive in a couple of months.

They pups are in nearly every building for kids to read with, to do homework with or just to visit.

School is just getting underway for the year at Prairie Crest Elementary.

It’s hard for kids not to smile as they meet two new friends: Lennox and Calypso.

“There are important differences between Lennox and Calypso and our pets at home,” said Special Education Teacher Margo Grolmus.

One big difference is that the labs are specially trained to work with children in schools.

Grolmus is Calypso’s handler.

She said the dogs provide motivation for students.

“Or if we have kids who are anxious, kids who maybe are having a rough day. They tend to relax when they can have the dogs nearby,” Grolmus said.

Third-grader Travis James likes being in the classroom, but he said sometimes he needs a break.

“When I’m a little overwhelmed,” James said.

That’s when he visits the dogs. Then, when he returns to class he said things have changed.

“I feel different. I’m glad now that I feel good,” James said.

Any student in the school can spend time with the therapy dogs, but Grolmus said having Calypso in her special education classroom makes a big difference.

“Kids feel very comfortable coming to this classroom, and this is a preferred classroom to come to in our building and a lot of it is because we have the dog in here. So, it has kind of taken down those barriers that can be around special education,” Grolmus said.

Teachers say the program helps students in many ways, but for kids it’s simply a case of puppy love.

Grolmus said therapy dogs are paid for with grants, donations and even partially by the handler.

l Comments: 319-398-8268;