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Three Lakes Middle School starts dog therapy program
THREE LAKES - Starting last month, two new classmates joined the class roster at Three Lakes Middle School.

However, they don't look anything like the other students.

Toby and Gunner had their first day of school in Three Lakes last month. 

"Right when they walk in, everyone's face lights up and everyone's trying to get the dogs to come by them and pet them," said Three Lakes eighth-grader Amanda Rieck.

The black lab mixes aren't in the school just to learn. They have a very specific role to play. 

"I can sit there and pet the dog instead of having a pencil twirling in my fingers," said eighth-grader Sawyer Siedschlag. 

Special-ed teacher Nicole Lewis brings her pets to school as therapy dogs for the students.

"It's a great feeling when I know it's helping another student," said Lewis. 
  
Lewis pitched the idea to the school administration after learning the positive effects therapy dogs can have on students. 

"It wasn't even about bringing my dogs to school," said Lewis. 

Lewis rescued Toby and Gunner from the Vilas County Humane Society.

The dogs trained for four years. Now the brothers rescue students from the stress and pressures of a classroom. 

"If you're having a bad day, they kind of know what to do for you," said Rieck.

The dogs enjoy getting the pats and belly scratches, and it's a win for the students too. 

"Students that may not want to work, when the dogs next to them, their pencil's to the paper," said Lewis. 

The students say there are just some things parents and humans don't understand, and school without the labs would be much different. 

"Sad and stressful and it would be a lot harder," said Rieck.

These labs show that dogs can be a student's best friend. 

Fox Valley Humane Association helped train the dogs. 

Right now the dogs just work in the middle school, but Lewis hopes they'll get a chance to visit the elementary and high school soon. 

Story By: Phylicia Ashley


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