From stray dog to therapy dog


From running the streets of a local city… To helping students at a local elementary school… The last four years have been quite the journey for one rescue dog.

First news at nine’s Danielle Wagner introduces us to jerry and explains how he went from stray dog to therapy dog.

It’s hard to have a case of the Mondays if you’re a student in Vicki Howell’s second grade classroom at Altoona elementary.

Each Monday and Friday… A four-legged friend named jerry comes to school with Howell.

“for me to bring my dog to school with me, I never would have thought about it as an option, and it’s been great. I know he enjoys it too.”

“so, what’s it like for you having jerry come visit the classroom? The best!”

“so, what’s it like for you having jerry come visit the classroom? The best!”

But jerry didn’t always spend his days roaming from student to student.

More than four years ago… Jerry was a stray dog, running the streets of Mondovi.

“they weren’t able to catch him. They let him go a few times. He ended up in a garage of some people, and they closed the garage door. He’s actually named after the gentleman – Jerome, jerry.”

Jerry went into the care of the buffalo county humane association and into a foster home… Which is where the Howell family met and adopted jerry.

The plan was just to have a family dog… But then Howell was inspired by Altoona elementary paraprofessional Beth revello and her certified therapy dog, willow.

Willow is a five-year-old golden retriever with more than two years as a therapy dog.

Each Tuesday and Thursday morning, willow works with 14 students who have the choice of walking with her in the hall, petting her and talking with her, or reading a book to her.

“a lot of calm moments when they’re petting her or reading a book to her. You can feel them just relax and they enjoy the book and petting her.”

“sometimes I give her treats.”

“it’s a small thing to walk a dog down the hallway, but when you see the smiles and the bright faces coming back at you, it’s very heartwarming and you know you’re making a little bit of a difference in their day.”

Taking the cue from revello and willow — Howell and jerry went through the testing requirements of therapy dogs international.

“he did great with everything.”

In January 20-19… Jerry received his certification, which meant it was time to get to work meeting with 13 students in first and second grades who are recommended by teachers.

“they have about 15 minutes where they come in. We sit and talk about how their day is going, and it is the shyer ones or have high anxiety. And I let them give him a little treat. They feel good about themselves because they can have him do the commands and get the treats. I know he creates a sense of belonging to a lot of kids who don’t have that.”

The rest of the day, jerry spends with Howell and her second-grade students.

“usually he walks around, and we pet him and sometimes he goes under the desk and sometimes he lays down.”

Howell says the feedback is overwhelmingly positive.

“my principal gave me the blessing and so did the superintendent, but you never know what parents are going to say, but everybody’s been great.”


“rescue dogs are awesome. It’s amazing how they can be such a blessing not only to your family, but the other people around you.”

In Altoona, Danielle Wagner, first news at nine.

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