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Sunday, February 23, 2020

It Takes a Village: Local Businesses Sponsor Therapy Dog for Grant Elementary School

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Margaret Stadtwald
Margaret Stadtwaldhttps://www.discovermuscatine.com
Margaret Stadtwald works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Two years ago, Aggie Johnson, a special education teacher for Muscatine Community School District (MCSD), applied for a therapy dog. She contacted Canine Assistance, Rehabilitation, Education, and Services (CARES), a dog training organization in Concordia, Kansas, and requested a German Shepard. After diligently searching, CARES found just the dog Johnson needed, Guy Hardy. Raised in a Colorado Prison as part of a well-respected inmate work and rehabilitation program, Hardy had the perfect disposition.

Adopting a therapy dog represents a large financial investment. It cost Johnson roughly $3,000 to bring Hardy home. Undaunted, Johnson approached several local businesses about sponsoring his adoption. She first went to Kent Corporation, who pledged $1,000 to help. HON then matched that donation with $1,000 of their own. With a $750 gift from family friends, and some help from her husband, Johnson quickly raised all the money she needed. “It’s wonderful how the community stepped up to do this for the school and for the kids. That’s what I love about this community. We have some great companies that really care about the kids,” she said.

In the months to come, Phelps Custom Image Wear will make patches with each of the donors’ logos, showcasing how they came together to bring Hardy to Grant. Johnson also plans to take Hardy to meet all of his sponsors.

Shortly before school started this year, Johnson traveled to Kansas to train with Hardy. For a week and a half, the pair bonded and practiced the skills they would need to gain therapy dog recognition. Fortunately, Hardy had a good start and warmed to Johnson quickly, and they easily passed the certification test.

With school in session, Hardy now helps Johnson work with her kindergarten and first grade students with Autism. Hardy offers companionship to students who need help calming down and provides a friendly audience for them to read to. Soon, Johnson plans to teach her students how to walk Hardy in the halls so that they can take him to visit other classes throughout the school, allowing more children to benefit from him. “Animals do make a difference for kids, especially those who are going through hardships,” she asserted.

Hardy’s work at Grant makes a huge difference in the lives of the students who interact with him. As Johnson reaches more students with him, she feels thankful that MCSD allowed her the opportunity to bring him into the classroom. “I love [MCSD] because they’re willing to try new things for students,” she shared.

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