When students at Dugger Union go back to school this fall, they are going to have a new four legged classmate, Maggie the border collie. She is going to be a support animal at the school.
This is new for Dugger, but school officials say from the research they have done on service animals they are excited to have Maggie enrolled.
When Kylee Knoephle approached the Dugger School Board with the idea of a support animal, “I thought this would be an excellent service for the students,” the response was unanimous.
“It was a brand new idea that when I heard about it I was in love with. And I know Mrs. Kenner our elementary administrator and our board, they were as well,” says Darin Simpson, Dugger Union Jr./Sr. High Administrator.
Knoephle’s family dog had a litter of border collies and after speaking with a canine trainer they knew Maggie would be perfect for the job.
“It won’t be like a pet dog. She will have her jobs that she needs to perform, and she will know those going through her schooling and everything,” says Knoephle.
The benefits of a service animal really grabbed the administrator’s attention. Especially the dog’s ability to increase reading comprehension and decrease anxiety.
“Those are two things I am thinking are huge right off the bat. You know that, Maggie can help with those two areas then whatever else she can do is just icing on the cake,” says Simpson.
Research has shown that some kids who struggle with reading feel more comfortable reading to dogs.
It gives then a way to make reading fun and it makes kids want to read because it helps form a bond between them and the dog.
With Maggie being so cute and lovable, the idea that she may be more of a distraction than a help was addressed.
“It may be something you know, the first few weeks or whatever that they are getting used to her being in the building. But I think after that, I think she is just going to be one of them,” says Simpson.
The plan is, Maggie will mainly be used in the guidance office and special education room. But she will be available to all teachers and classrooms if they want to use her for their students.
Maggie starts training this week at the Vonbernd K9 Training Center in Vigo County and she is set to graduate in August, just before school starts.