Special needs kids get reading help from furry friend

SAN ANTONIO – Monarch Academy is turning to a four-legged friend for reading therapy.

The school for kids with disabilities next door to Morgan's Wonderland is having a 3-year old-silver Labrador retriever named Cooter Brown come in once a week so the kids can read to him.

"All this makes me feel good and it makes him feel good," said Cooter's owner, Nanette Roenigk. "He enjoys it as much as I do and as much as the kids do."

Cooter has been trained and certified as a reading specialist.

"(The dogs) have to be really calm. They have to be well-behaved (and) can't be jumpy or 'licky,'" Roenigk said.

The students come in to a room one by one and sit on the floor with Cooter and Nanette. They spend about 10 minutes reading to Cooter.

"The kids can relax and enjoy themselves and not get uptight about reading," said Roenigk

One thing that makes Cooter even more special is that he lost his left eye to glaucoma.

"He is different as well, and that's OK, so the kids can see that," said Roenigk.

"Dogs don't judge me for what (I) look like or anything," said Laura, one of the students.

Laura was reading August Magic to Cooter.

"(He) seems to enjoy books about dogs," Laura said.

The students are also understanding that thanks to Cooter, their reading skills are improving.

"What I see is just an eagerness to come and be with the dog," said Anne Bristol, head of Monarch Academy.

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