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Photo: Dianne Arthur

Paw-sitive Impact in Wheat Ridge Middle School

Pirate, a professional therapy dog at Everitt Middle School, happily assists students daily.

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Classroom doors swing open and Pirate is cheerfully greeted as he makes his morning rounds at Everitt Middle School (EMS). He knows the teachers stock treats for him. Different than the others walking through the halls at the Wheat Ridge school, Pirate the Wonder Dog is a Lab-Chow mix who trained to be a service dog, but was deemed unfit due to his hip dysplasia. Now, Pirate serves as a professional therapy dog to the more than 600 students at EMS.

Dianne Arthur, the social emotional learning specialist at EMS, brought Pirate to school after she took an interest in animal-assisted therapy. Pirate lives with Arthur who brings him to classrooms, lunch, recess, and her social emotional learning group to practice social skills with students. Kids and staff can also visit Pirate in his beach-themed hangout close to Arthur’s desk.

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Arthur sees daily how much the middle schoolers are helped by Pirate. “It doesn’t matter how upset a kid is, when Pirate enters the room, they immediately calm down,” she says. Kids and staff alike are elated to see Pirate roaming the halls every day, which Arthur says has greatly boosted the school’s culture. Arthur says Pirate comes home every day happily worn out, dreaming of all the treats he’ll get the next day.

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