Students' best friend
Buddy doesn't say much, but he's still the most popular guy at Fargo North High. Adorned with a blue Spartan handkerchief, the golden retriever and Labrador cross thrives on attention - and table scraps - from students and staff. But when the cla...
Buddy doesn't say much, but he's still the most popular guy at Fargo North High.
Adorned with a blue Spartan handkerchief, the golden retriever and Labrador cross thrives on attention - and table scraps - from students and staff.
But when the class bell rings, he has a job to do.
Anne McSparron, Buddy's handler, knew he was a kind soul the moment she met the young dog. Unlike other puppies in the litter, Buddy cuddled into her neck. He didn't make a peep the first night she brought him home.
Now, at age 2, Buddy is registered as a therapy dog with the Delta Society, which trains and tests dogs for the designation.
McSparron first brought Buddy to school so he could hang out with kids in the special education classes. He also listened to students read at a weeklong summer school.
This fall he started volunteering in his handler's classroom. She teaches English to sophomores who are at risk of dropping out of school.
Most days Buddy will wander between the rows of desks, often sensing which students need his attention. He gives handshakes, high fives and face licks.
One time, a student taking a test stroked Buddy's fur during the entire time.
"He knows somehow that somebody needs love," McSparron said.
Research shows therapy dogs can motivate students to focus on their studies and do better in class. When McSparron's students were introduced to Buddy, they thought he might be a distraction. But they quickly fell in love with the 55-pound fur ball.
"I can actually concentrate better," said April Iwen. "It's hard to explain, but when there's a dog in the classroom, it's more comforting. I get better grades with Buddy."
Adis Dizdarevic often will take the dog out for a short walk during class breaks.
"Sometimes the only reason I come to class is because Buddy is there," Dizdarevic said.
During a recent class, Buddy napped while students reviewed vocabulary from the novel, "All Quiet on the Western Front." After all, the night before had been late. Buddy had a role in the school's production of the musical, "Pippin."
Students aren't the only ones who like Buddy's presence. The canine is front and center in this year's photograph of Fargo North High staff. And more than one adult has snuck him a bite of his favorite juicy Quarter Pounder.
Of course, Buddy has his "dog" moments. While rehearsing his star role in the school musical "Pippin," he tried to steal a hamburger from a cast member. He occasionally sneezes and belches in class.
But mostly, he's the perfect gentleman.
"He's like a person - no joke," Iwen said. "He knows what's going on."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Erin Hemme Froslie at (701) 241-5534