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Park Rapids students chill with therapy dogs during finals week

Kisses in the high school cafeteria came from a trio of friendly dogs on Nov. 21.

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Students Matthew Dahring, Finn Johnson and Jack Worner play with Larry Kruft's therapy dog Lady (at front) and Tracy Parthun's canine friend Skye during finals week Monday, Nov. 21, 2022 at Park Rapids Area High School.
Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise
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Furry friends from Beltrami County Therapy Dogs visited Park Rapids Area High School (PRAHS) during lunchtime Monday, Nov. 21.

English teacher Vicki Schroeder said the visit was to help the students decompress during final exams.

Tracy Parthun, a trainer with Beltrami County Therapy Dogs, brought her personal dog, Skye, accompanied by Larry Kruft, Nancy Brutlag and their canine companions, Lady and Annie.

“She’s 8 years old,” Parthun said of Skye. “She’s been a therapy dog since she was about 2 years old. We visit a lot of long-term care facilities that have just recently opened up to us, because of COVID. But she’s also a reading dog, so she goes to elementary schools and the children read stories to her, and she interacts with them as if she’s understanding the story.”

Parthun described the PRAHS visit as a “destress with pets” event, to settle the nerves of students going into finals week. Her organization holds therapy dog training classes twice a year, she said.

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Kruft said Lady has been a service dog for about a year.

“I’ve had her for about two years,” he said. “When I first got her at 2 years old, she hated men. I couldn’t even put her in my vehicle.”

Now she’s doing much better, accepting belly rubs and neck scratches from high school students such as Matthew Dahring.

Annie, a medium-sized goldendoodle, has also been a therapy dog for about two years.

“She also goes to elementary school, and kids read to her,” said Brutlag.

According to Coordinator of Educational Services Shelli Walsh, it was the first time the school has brought in therapy dogs to comfort students.

While Walsh was leery about whether the dogs’ visit came too early during finals week, the success of their visit was apparent from the smiles on students’ faces.

MORE RELATED COVERAGE:
Performances will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 9-10 and 3 p.m. on Dec. 10 at the auditorium.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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