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Sometimes a dog makes it all better

Rory Cochran (left), Kami Kobs, Easton D’Ambrosio and Drake Kobs crowd around Bailey, a retired therapy dog owned by Joan Berg, at a visit to the Somerset Public Library during story hour Dec. 11. (Photo by Sarah Young)

The Somerset Public Library is going to the dogs.

Bailey, a shepherd-mix therapy dog, has spent her entire life around kids. She adores them and they adore her, said Bailey’s owner Joan Berg. Bailey and Berg visited the Somerset Library’s story hour kids on Wednesday, Dec. 11.

Berg lives on a farm near East Farmington, where she not only has dogs, but six horses that are used in the nonprofit River Valley Riders therapeutic riding program.

When Berg retired from her job as an adaptive physical education teacher at Northeast Metro Intermediate School District 916 in St. Paul last spring, Bailey retired with her.

Berg taught at the school for more than 20 years. Bailey went with her almost every day 12 of those 20 years, Berg said.

“She so loves people,” Berg said. “She did so well with those kids and accepted their interest. She’s kind of automatically a good dog.”

The children at the Somerset Library’s story time adored Bailey. They crowded around her, talking to her and burying their little hands in her soft black fur.

“I think she misses the kids,” Berg said of Bailey’s retirement. “She was raised to be around them at one time. She’s a gentle soul.”

Berg said she adopted Bailey from a huge litter after she retired her 10-year-old Yorkshire Terrier, also a therapy dog.

Berg said Bailey was never “a ball chasing dog,” so she spent most of her time in a kennel under Berg’s desk at the school. Berg took her to obedience training at Sunshine Kennels and K9 Training in Luck. There she was certified as a therapy dog.

Berg described Bailey as a “leaner,” a dog that people can lean on, talk to and feel support from.

“She was good therapy for the staff and kids at the school,” Berg said. “If someone was having a bad day, the could go in to talk to her. Her main role was greeting kids as they came into the school.”

Berg said Bailey also helped many kids get over their fear of dogs. Bailey also doled out good behavior awards to students, allowing them to walk her around the building and give her treats.

One reason Berg retired Bailey was due to Bailey’s torn ACL last April. Plus some of the kids in her school came from a “tougher population” and could sometimes be too rough with the dog, who is getting older, Berg said.

Berg recently adopted a German Shepherd puppy, named Saskia, that she plans to certify as a therapy dog.

Since it’s hard for Bailey to use her therapeutic skills in places such as schools and hospitals that have hard surfaced, slippery floors, Berg said she wants to do more appearances with Bailey at libraries, which usually have carpeting.

“I would love to do libraries,” Berg said. “The thing for her is it’s not good for her to be on slippery floors anymore due to her torn ACL. Somerset is my library of choice. This is my library. And working with kids is wonderful.”

When Bailey’s visit ended, the story hour kids made homemade dog treats to take home or to donate to Gregory’s Gift of Hope in New Richmond.

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in Febraury 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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