Therapy dog helps Chippewa Falls students improve reading, morale

By: Joe Nelson Email
By: Joe Nelson Email

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) - Students at one school in Chippewa Falls are improving their reading and smiling more since a special visitor started stopping by.

Jack has been going to Halmstad Elementary twice a week, since the start of the year, and kids say after a quick visit, they're more focused and their days get brighter.

“I love reading to him,” third-grader Franklin Brewer said.

“I can focus on the book and he listens,” second-grader Derek Zakrzewicz said.

Every Monday and Tuesday, kids like Derek and Franklin get a chance to leave the classroom and practice reading aloud.

Their main audience is 10 years old, but he graduated from school three years ago.

Jack is a golden retriever. He was once neglected, but was later adopted by his owner of more than seven years, Staish Buchner.

“He was in the process of getting well. He had worms, hot spots, scars, kind of bleeding sores,” Buchner said.

Jack's visits with Buchner during his surgery made him realize Jack could serve a bigger purpose. Jack and Buchner went through a nine-month course for Jack to become a therapy dog.

He had been visiting nursing homes and an idea from Halmstad principal Wade Pilloud brought Jack in, a first for the Chippewa Falls School District.

“In the short time we've seen him, kids are very excited, they want to spend time with him, it improves their behavior, because they know through good behavior, they get to see him. On the other hand, we do have some kids with emotional needs, and that calming atmosphere that jack can provide can help relax kids and get them better prepared to learn in the classroom,” Pilloud said.

“He likes being petted, he likes being with the kids, he enjoys his time; I couldn't think of a better dog for a therapy dog than this character,” Buchner said.

“He makes me feel happy and I don't feel sad or frustrated anymore,” second-grader Claire Beaudette said.

“It helps kids calm down, get not that much nervous and let them get relaxed,” Brewer said.

Jack even helps his owner, a retired educator, stay busy.

“If it wasn't for him (Jack), I wouldn't be getting out, I'd probably be a very good couch potato, which is not something I desire to become,” Buchner said.

“He has given more to me than I have to him.”

Pilloud said other schools in the district have seen what Jack has done and are considering having a therapy dog as well.

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