By: Jen Russon
Therapy dogs, Brutus and Bodhi, are a comforting presence at Forest Glen Middle School, where students can usually find them sitting on couches in Shawna Meyer’s classroom.
A peer counseling teacher, Meyers incorporates the dogs into a curriculum that builds kids’ communication and social skills.
Though a therapy dog remains a fixture in her lesson plan, at almost nine years old, Brutus has earned a well-deserved break.
“The average lifespan for a Great Dane is eight, and although Brutus is doing okay, he’s definitely slowing down. He’s getting wobbly in his back legs and no longer wants to be taken out for bathroom breaks,” said Meyer.
Although it will be easier loading just one dog into her Jeep on school days, Meyer said she’ll miss bringing Brutus to work.
“Both dogs love being around kids, but it’s Brutus who has an uncanny ability to know who needs him the most. He’ll see a student with his head down, jump off the couch, and head right over,” said Meyer.
Meyer said Bodhi, not quite two, is newly trained and certified to pick up where his older brother left off.
“He’s a big goof, but he’s learning fast, and I know the kids will enjoy having him around,” she said.
Meyer’s dogs began working with her shortly after schools re-opened during the pandemic. The first principal to welcome Brutus and Bodhi was Ron Forsman, and now it’s Principal Melissa Gurreonero who looks forward to seeing the cuddly pair.
“Both principals say students are incentivized toward good behavior if a visit to my classroom to see the dogs is the reward,” Meyer said.
A retirement party will be held for Brutus at Forest Glen on Tuesday, March 8, his birthday.
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- Jen Russon has been a staff writer for Talk Media since 2018. She is also a novelist, copywriter and editor at Swallow Publishing, LLC.
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