Wisconsin school therapy dog connects with students through Facebook amid closures

Frannie, a school therapy dog, is connecting with her students online during the school closures.

Educators are facing all sorts of obstacles when it comes to distance learning, but a Wisconsin special education teacher is finding ways for her students to connect with her therapy dog Frannie. 

Frannie the labradoodle works as a therapy dog at the Ellsworth Elementary School in western Wisconsin. She even has a school ID, resume and an official school photo for the yearbook.

“Frannie started coming to school with me every day and she quickly became a mascot of our school,” said Katie Deiss, a special education teacher and Frannie’s owner. 

Deiss says she quickly saw how students, especially those with behavioral or emotional needs, made a strong connection with Frannie.

“There’s something really special about a bond between a child and a dog,” she said.

With school closures in place due to COVID-19, Deiss says she needed to find a way to keep that bond.

“I thought I’m just going to make her a Facebook and see what I can come up with,” she said. 

The page took off and now every school day at 1 p.m., Frannie shares a story with her students. 

“I have parents and students saying they have an alarm set for 1 o’clock every day,” said Deiss. “This is just something really important to us educators to make sure students are reading and learning.”

Deiss says it’s her way of helping students and families find joy – and a friend – while having to stay apart.

“She is as much their dog as she is mine,” said Deiss.