Kokomo middle school gets facility dog to benefit students

Rocky, Northwestern Middle School’s new facility dog, is introduced to the school on Friday, December 13, 2019. (Kokomo Tribune/Kelly Lafferty Gerber)
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KOKOMO, Ind. (WTHR) — Students at Northwestern Middle School in Kokomo have a new tool to help them with everything from emotional distress to reading literacy.

The school introduced Rocky the Golden Retriever, last week, the Kokomo Tribune reports. Special education teacher Paula Davis had a big interest in getting a facility dog, and she discovered the Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN) aligned with her ideas.

The process of getting a school dog through ICAN took more than a year. Davis had to go through intense training once a week at the Indiana Women's Prison, where Rocky's former handler trained him. She went into training with some specific tasks in mind for Rocky, including a focus on literacy.

Students already read aloud once a week and silently three times a week. Now, they'll get to read aloud with Rocky once instead of one of their silent reading sessions.

Northwestern Middle School special education teacher and Rocky’s handler, Paula Davis introduces Rocky  to the school on Friday, December 13, 2019. (Kokomo Tribune/Kelly Lafferty Gerber))
Northwestern Middle School special education teacher and Rocky’s handler, Paula Davis introduces Rocky to the school on Friday, December 13, 2019. (Kokomo Tribune/Kelly Lafferty Gerber))

Rocky will also help as emotional support.

"Oftentimes in a special education room we have students that shutdown emotionally for whatever reason," Davis said. "If we have a student who is upset, in distress or crying, [Rocky] can recognize that, go attend to that and simply just be there as a comfort."

Students will also be able to grow life skills like responsibility and integrity by helping with tasks to take care of Rocky with grooming and hygiene.

While Rocky will be especially helpful in the special education department, Principal Brett Davis said he's for everyone.

"You don't need to be in special ed to have a bad day or to be going through an emotional trauma, so we're just trying to bridge that gap and be pretty inclusive."

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