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Dog-gone good time at NRHS

The auditorium at Nansemond River High School went to the dogs on Monday morning.

Therapy dogs from the Suffolk Humane Society came to visit students with disabilities at Nansemond River. About 30 students “aww”ed as the dogs’ handlers introduced them and told about their abilities, laughed when the dogs disobeyed while showing off tricks and chuckled as Appa, a large and fluffy Great Pyrenees, barely squeezed through the tunnel.

“We love being in the schools because so many young people have not had the opportunity to have an association with dogs of this nature,” said Ginger Owen, a member of the Humane Education Committee of the Suffolk Humane Society. She and all the owners present on Monday are committee members, and they are all humane society volunteers.

Owen said having the therapy dogs visit the schools helps the students become more comfortable around dogs — and more confident in themselves, too.

“They’re so well-mannered, but they’re also loving and they sort of get it,” Owen said of the dogs. The B.A.R.K.S. (Books And Reading for Kids in Suffolk) program is also very helpful for the students, she added. “The reading programs have been excellent. They’ll read to the dogs, because the dogs don’t correct them. It’s unconditional.”

Each of the owners introduced their dog from the stage on Monday. Fran Duman brought her Corgi, Teddy. Sue Corell had Bentley, a Lhasa Apso. Joan Cary had her Australian shepherd, Dottie. And the owner of Appa, the Great Pyrenees, was Shelley Kuglin.

They told the students about their dog’s personality and showed off tricks, such as sitting and staying, high-fives, “saying prayers” and even pushing a wheelchair. The dogs showed off on an agility course and lastly relished hugs, snuggles and pets from the students who wanted to meet the dogs.

“It’s hopefully to educate them to feel comfortable around the right dogs and how to act and approach dogs,” Owen said. “Hopefully, they will be advocates for animals as they grow up.”

Owen said the committee tries to do school events as much as possible.

“The more we can get into the schools, the better off we feel they (the students) are and certainly these dogs are,” she said.

Michael Milteer, an assistant principal at Nansemond River High School, said the event definitely helps students with disabilities.

“(Therapy) dogs are more than just a dog — they are a friend,” he said. “It does create confidence.”