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Belly rubs, reading and rewards: How a dog is helping Montreal students improve their literacy

Click to play video: 'Therapy dog helps Quebec children improve reading skills' Therapy dog helps Quebec children improve reading skills
WATCH: Working nine to five can be “ruff” but it isn’t so bad if you’re rewarded with belly rubs. That’s the case for Fozzie, a dog with a job. Global’s Olivia O’Malley reports. – Dec 29, 2021

Working nine to five can be ruff, but it isn’t so bad when you get rewarded with belly rubs and treats. At least when you’re Fozzie the mini Bernedoodle.

Global News followed the licensed therapy dog as he spent the day at work with Westmount Park Elementary School students.

“He has a full day. He has a serious career here,” said Canine Education dog trainer and owner Joshua Taylor.

Taylor and Kathy Kovacs work with Fozzie and Milo the golden doodle at elementary schools around Montreal several days a week. The canines help improve children’s reading skills and foster a love for reading.

“When the dogs are around, they’re seen as non-judgemental beings so that the students are a lot more engaged and a lot more motivated,” said Unique Tutoring owner and elementary school teacher Kathy Kovacs.

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Over multiple sessions, primary-aged children read to the dogs and write stories about the furry friend of their choice.

“They’re cute and they’re funny, and they’re fluffy, they’re silly, and they’re very fun to play with,” said Grade 2 student Eron Marku.

When Fozzie’s not on the clock, the three-and-a-half-year-old is in the playful shadow of his owners, Darren St-Georges and Jodi Hunt. The couple wanted Fozzie to become a licensed therapy dog to give back to others.

“My stepfather was in palliative care and I would take Fozzie, who was still a puppy at the time, to see him, and it would always cheer him up,” said St-Georges. “And I noticed while I was there that I would also be cheering up some of the other people who were in their care.”

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Fozzie started obedience training at three months old. Taylor said the puppy’s temperament was great and it was a natural progression to getting licensed.

“Through our classes, we started noticing that he was great with my kids when they were at the centre and he just started to really shine,” he said.

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The four-legged friend has been working with kids for a year. As restrictions ease, his owner and trainer hope Fozzie can lend a helping paw to more people who need it.

“Honestly, it doesn’t really matter where it is, it’s just giving back in some way, shape or form,” said St-Georges.

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