Professor Dog

A Canine Who Teaches Reading

By Ward Stevens

Last February, I stumbled on something you don’t see every day. During a National Assessment of Educational Progress-related visit to South Fork Elementary School in Rigby, I approached the front desk and an Australian blue heeler trotted out of the principal’s office to see who had entered his domain.

 “What an unusual dog,” I remarked as I took a chair in the office of Principal Yvonne Thurber.

“I don’t know about him being unusual, but he is special,” she responded. “When I was working at Eagle Rock Junior High, a little girl came to school in tears one day. I asked her what the problem was. She sobbed, and told me her dog had just had eleven puppies. She had found a home for all of them except one and was afraid she would have to drop him off at the dog pound. Being an animal lover, I couldn’t let her do that. They might put him to sleep. I took him home and gave him the name Kooskia.”

“Here’s a question I’m dying to ask,” I said. “Why is he at school?”

She sat up straight. “He’s part of our PAWS reading agenda. It’s a program that helps parents motivate their children to read at least twenty minutes every day through competition between two teams, the Cats and the Dogs. At South Fork Elementary, Kooskia might just be a young reader’s best pal.”

“Really? Why’s that?”  

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Ward Stevens

About Ward Stevens

Ward Stevens teaches at Emerson High in Idaho Falls. A professional sweepboat guide for thirty years on the Salmon’s Middle Fork and the Snake, he met his future wife on the river, and never flipped a raft. Ward is working on historical fiction concerning the aftereffects in Idaho of the 9/11 attacks.

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