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Introducing Aspen, Cook County School’s Registered Therapy Dog

Dec 16, 2019 05:05AM ● By Editor
Photo of Aspen and school friends submitted by Signy Sherman

From Boreal Community Media - December 16 , 2019

There is a smiling new face among the staff at Cook County Schools.  Aspen is a registered therapy dog who started working at Cook County Schools in November. 

Aspen’s background includes working with disabled veterans at the State of Minnesota Veteran’s Home, Sunday visits at the North Shore Health Care Center, and the summer reading program at the Grand Marais Public Library.   Aspen and her owner, Lisa, became a registered therapy team through Pet Partners International in 2018.  The process involved handler coursework, veterinary health screenings, registration fees, and a team evaluation, which is a simulated therapy animal visit, by an evaluator and team of volunteers (both human and dogs).  Lisa and Aspen traveled to Iron River, Wisconsin last year for this evaluation. 

Aspen visits the school a few mornings a week and is based out of her owner’s office next to the high school media center.  Her handler, Lisa, is the district’s technology director.  Aspen eagerly waits for the kids to get off the bus to stop in to greet her.  Some of Aspen’s regular visitors in her school office include Reading Corps staff and their young readers, students who are experiencing trauma or sadness that need a little TLC from Aspen, and simply kids who just love having her here.  Aspen brings in customized bookmarks and stickers to share with the students who stop by to visit her.  According to Principal Megan Myers, "Aspen is a great addition to our school.  We have students that line up and look forward to seeing her whenever she is available!  She supports academic readiness by regulating emotions in our students."   

Teacher Sue Nelson regularly sends her students to Aspen's office and made the following observation about Aspen's presence in the school, "Aspen, our vital 4-legged colleague. She exemplifies that if one listens to a kid in a non-judgmental, patient, and welcoming manner, oh what that kid can accomplish. That will provide us the most relevant data, more than any test score can. Hands (paws?)down."

Welcome to Cook County Schools, Aspen!

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