Sammie the Service Dog to Work at Northwoods Elementary - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Sammie the Service Dog to Work at Northwoods Elementary

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A La Crosse school is one of the first in the area to have a specialized dog to assist students.

As you know, service dogs are used in everything from search and rescue to pushing the button of an elevator for someone with a disability.

At Northwoods Elementary students are quick to pay attention to the man at the front of the room and his dog. Scott Dewey is from Retrieving Freedom, a service dog training program. Many of his canines, like Max, work with veterans with PTSD.

"These dogs do nightmare interruption.  They help get you into public.  They actually sit in front of you, behind you and not guard you but they work to give you a buffer zone," said Dewey.

Dewey also trained Sammie.

"She can help kids that are having bad days  and help mitigate melt downs and assist with transition zones," said Dewey.

Sammie is official school dog of Northwoods Elementary.  Special Ed teacher Heather Stern was fostering the one year old Labrador Retriever but the two formed such a bond that Dewey suggested they stay together.

"I have a student who is autistic so he would come in every day and read with her. so just that fifteen minutes that he sat down with her and read changed his whole anxiety brought it down.  He was able to transition from lunch to the classroom. I had another student that would escalate in the lunchroom because it's so loud and so much but as soon as he was done eating he would play with her in the playground and  if he had that ten minutes of play time with her he would have no problem behaviorally all afternoon," said Stern.

Instructors say that as much as we want to pet one of these dogs - don't.  When they're wearing a vest they're working so always ask if you can pet them first.

Third grader Keegan says he likes seeing Sammie at school. "First I thought she was just being here for a couple of months or so but then after I figured out that she is staying here for a long time that it was very fascinating and when I felt sad sometimes I got to pet Sammie," said Keegan.  

Sammie really helps all of us just kind of put a smile on our face.We have hard days, we have great days but Sammie kind of brings out the best in all of us," said teacher Becky Misch.

It costs $25,000 to train a specialized service dog but Sammie's training was cut short since he is staying with Heather to work in the school. Retrieving Freedom dropped the fee to $15,000.

Heather received a $5,000 grant from the La Crosse Education Foundation but is looking for help raising the rest.
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