Someone You Should Know: Therapy and Reading Assistance dog makes a big difference

Someone You Should Know

Dogs are known as man’s best friend and there’s no doubt of the therapeutic benefits their skills and companionship can give to humans.

This week’s Someone You Should Know isn’t a person — but a golden retriever — whose impact reaches far beyond her leash.

“Frankie has been a gift,” Patty Kuntz, third-grade teacher at Miller Elementary School said.

Frankie is an 8-year-old golden retriever. She’s Love on a Leash – literally – that’s the name of her therapy and reading assistance services.

She visits the library and two elementary schools in Bismarck – including Mrs. Kuntz’s third-grade classroom.

“She has had a huge impact on every student,” said Kuntz. “I can’t think of a student that has not enjoyed Frankie.”

Frankie and her handler, Genell Bogner, have visited Mrs. Kuntz’s class just about every Tuesday since 2016.

“She walks in the room and she’s pretty excited,” said Bogner. “But then her reading blanket rolls out and she lays on it like a rock.”

So how does Frankie’s soft fur and sweet face help these students?

Bogner explained, “If they’re a hesitant reader or a quiet reader, or a little need just a little encouragement, she calms them down and she’s a nonjudgemental listener. So they feel safe, they feel safe reading to her.”

Frankie’s got a lot of experience, too. She’s logged more than 500 hours of reading with students.

“She just brings a sense of calm into our classroom,” Kuntz said.

When the coronavirus pandemic was at its worst, Frankie had some time off and Bogner says she could tell the dog missed her duties.

As the school year wraps up, she’ll get to attend summer school and visit the library.

Bogner added, “I love sharing her with the students,” and it seems to be a mutual feeling.

The students were proud to shout, “We love Frankie!”

So that’s why this week, Frankie, the reading and therapy dog is a “good girl” you should know.

Both Kuntz and Genell say one of their fondest memories of Frankie is with a student back in 2016 who was reading at a first-grade level and was a bit nervous around dogs.

Genell and Frankie worked with that student once a week after school, and by the next school year, that student’s reading had improved to the fourth-grade level and she’s Frankie’s long-time reading buddy.

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