Students' best friend: Therapy dog tops in Iowa class - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Students' best friend: Therapy dog tops in Iowa class

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — Lizz Hanson multitasked, solving geometry formulas while petting beloved therapy dog Cooper.

"He's a big baby, and I love him so much," said the sophomore at Hempstead High School.

Cooper, a 6-year-old goldendoodle, prances around the school's hallways, classrooms and offices twice per week to provide a calming atmosphere. Hanson said the dog has helped her battle depression, the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald (http://bit.ly/1LK8fFo ) reports.

"He helps me want to go to school more and actually want to wake up in the morning," she said.

Cooper started visiting Hempstead about five years ago.

His owner, Terry Breitbach, a work coordinator at Hempstead, used to bring his dog Max to school twice per month. After Max died, Cooper carried on the tradition.

"I know (Cooper) brings a lot of happiness and calmness to the students," Breitbach said.

Cooper is part of the Hempstead family. He even wears his own school ID badge attached to his collar.

"He's a therapy dog, but I think he's more so like a school treasure because everybody here loves him," said sophomore Johnathan Ervin.

Cooper begins each visit with a trip through the school's main offices, where staff members spoil him with treats. Attendance secretary Patti Ryan willingly shares apples with cinnamon with the dog.

Cooper spends the rest of his day in classrooms and hallways with students. Breitbach said Cooper's secret agenda is to go "from place to place to get treats."

A water dish was placed in an Iowa Jobs for America's Graduates classroom. Senior Bobbie Runde shook Cooper's paws before giving him treats.

"He's my best friend," she said. "He just makes the day brighter, I guess."

Sophomore Edelynn Hill has witnessed Cooper's uncanny ability to help students who are having a bad day.

"It helps because when people are in a bad mood or whatever, he can come over and help them and calm them down," she said.

Math teacher Allison Drahozal said Cooper seems to settle everyone down when he enters her classroom.

"He's loved by everyone," Drahozal said. "I wish I could have him all the time all day."

Breitbach doesn't spend the school day with his family pet. He drops a leashed Cooper off in a classroom, leaving teachers and students to care for the dog during the day.

Cooper also visits the school district's administration offices and Mercy Medical Center-Dubuque's skilled-care unit.

He isn't the only therapy dog that visits Dubuque's public schools. Two other dogs visit Table Mound Elementary and Thomas Jefferson Middle schools regularly.

Cooper looks forward to his school days, according to Breitbach. Each morning, Cooper follows Breitbach around in case it is a day he gets to attend classes at Hempstead.

"I know if it was up to him, he'd like to come every day," Breitbach said with a smile.
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