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A Paws-itive Experience: St. Damian Students Gain Confidence by Reading to Dog

Sixth grade students at St. Damian School in Oak Forest spent class time Dec. 5, reading to Wrigley, a therapy dog. The activity is meant to bolster students' confidence in reading.

St. Damian sixth graders got some reading practice with a furry friend Dec. 5.  Students took turns reading, “My Dog, My Hero,” by Betsy Byars, Laurie Myers, Betsy Duffy and Loren Long to an attentive, patient, tail-wagging Weimaraner.

During the session, students each read a paragraph to 8-year-old Wrigley, who sat with ears perked in the middle with handler and owner, Meghan Williams.

Williams said that Wrigley, who is also a world champion dock jumper, has been a certified therapy dog for the past four years, starting at hospitals and eventually working his way into schools.

“We started out in obedience training,” Williams said. “Once he was certified, we went to the hospitals and went and saw patients. Then, recently we've joined Tail Waggin' Tutors, so now we come to schools and the students read to him.”

She added that where ever the duo goes, Wrigley seems to know exactly how he should behave.

“At the hospital he's mellow and will just put his head on the patients' bed and the let them pet him,” she said. “Then here, he's friendly and lets the kids pet him and play with him. Then on the dock, when he's jumping, he's all energy and ready to go. He just knows what role he's supposed to have.”

Williams said that this was Wrigley's second time at St. Damian and that she expects to return again.

After they finished reading to Wrigley, the students were presented with an “autographed” certificate of completion, something the students were excited to receive. Principal Colleen Domke and Williams said that they were excited by the students' willingness to read and their involvement in the program.

“This is great for the kids. ... There's not as much pressure on them, since it's a dog and not a human. It's just fun," Domke said.

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