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Therapy dog gets to work

Students and staff at Venture Elementary welcomed a new staff member Feb. 14.

Sherman, a 1.5-year-old Corgi, began accompanying his owner, Allison Parsons, for the past few weeks. Students and staff alike have been enjoying the new addition.

“Everyone was so excited. I think my favorite thing is everybody smiles when they see him, kids and staff,” she said. “He just brings a smile to everyone’s face, which is really cool.”

Parsons, who is a special education counselor, was looking for a small dog and always wanted a Corgi.

“Being a counselor, I always thought it would be kind of cool to have a dog to come with me, especially in the school because there has been so much research done on dogs in schools or just animals and children. I knew I wanted a small dog and I’ve always loved Corgis. Their temperament is good,” she said.

Tea Area is the only district in the area with a full-time therapy dog. Parsons has experience as a behavior facilitator in the Sioux Falls School District and Children’s Home before coming to Tea Area. In her past experience, she saw volunteers bring in therapy dogs and saw a positive change in the kids.

In those instances, volunteers were bringing in Golden Doodles or Golden Retrievers or a Great Dane. She preferred working with a smaller dog, so decided on a Corgi.

Parsons got Sherman when he was 12 weeks old and put him into Paws Pet Resort at 14 weeks old where he did 16 weeks of his puppy university. Then they did four training classes that worked on obedience and temperament.

Sherman did great in his training and was ready to start at Venture after Parsons acclimated him to the building. She brought him before his start date for a couple of hours to let him smell everything and get used to the building. She brought in his “place bed” and showed him where it was.

In her role as a special education counselor, she serves as the counselor in the Titan Learning Room. Students in the TLR have educational and/or behavior struggles. She wanted Sherman for the TLR because those students need some extra breaks.

“It’s only been a few days, but he has been awesome. He will lay down with kids and they will just pet him or they’ll already say, ‘can I have a Sherman break.’ They will sit by him and do their work, and it’s just been really cool to see,” Parsons said.

In addition to the TLR, Parsons also does large group guidance with the first and fourth grade classes. She has noticed a difference in the first graders already.

“First grade has a lot of energy and they were just so calm and the energy in the room was so much different,” she said.

Every two hours, Sherman has a 15-minute break. During those breaks, Parsons gives him the command “Place” and he goes to his “place bed” next to her desk. She also has him go to his “place bed” when she is working with children who do not like dogs.

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