By Ali Lucia

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — You wouldn’t think of a 175 pound St. Bernard as a teacher, but that’s exactly what this dog is doing — motivating young Monticello minds to read at Swan River Montessori School in Monticello.

When Mauer the St. Bernard therapy dog walks into the Monticello classroom a hush falls over the crowd.

His owner, Raeanna Nowacki, says he’s just your typical dog at their Big Lake home.

“At home, he’s just like any other dog, he likes to have fun, he likes to sleep, but when he see his backpack and when we put the collar on him — he has a therapy collar — he gets really excited,” Nowacki said.

Nowacki says his personality seems to be suited for this type of work.

“He’s very patient. He loves kids. He’ll lay down so he’s more at their level,” Nowacki said.

Research shows that therapy dogs in classrooms help with children’s learning, physical health, and emotional well-being.

“The best thing for me is just seeing someone is having an OK day or a not so OK day, and the smile that he brings if he’s walking into a room,” Nowacki said.

Monticello mom, Melissa Peterson, has witnessed this first hand with her son, Noah.

“He has autism so the attention that it takes to focus and put together the words has been a struggle since first grade,” Peterson said.

Noah loves to read, but his mom says his reading level is not up to par with his peers. At times, she says Noah can get frustrated.

“It makes me sad to think about how things like that come so naturally to some kids, that he would rather sit off by himself and read alone,” Peterson said.

Peterson says she has seen a huge improvement since Noah started reading to Mauer.

“Mauer gives him something positive to think about when he’s reading,” Peterson said.

It’s just one example of the many impacts this big dog makes when he walks into a room.

Noah’s mom says she hopes sharing his story will give other parents ideas on how to encourage their children to read.

If you would like to meet Mauer, anybody can schedule a therapy visit with “MAUER the Saint”. All of his appearances are listed on his Facebook page.

All of the work we do is on a volunteer basis, so there is no charge.

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