- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2016

STAFFORD, Kan. (AP) - High school students in Stafford have been training dogs from animal shelters to become service, therapy or companion pets.

Stafford High School teacher Mike Cargill started the “Training to Lead” program four years ago, The Hutchinson News (https://bit.ly/1T6ENzd ) reports. The trained dogs are donated to people with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries or mobility issues, particularly emergency responders and veterans.

Each student in the program fosters and trains a dog that was otherwise facing euthanasia. The recipients get the dogs for free and are trained on how to handle them.

The program is funded by donations and fundraisers. It spends about $1,000 on each dog.

Jerry, a golden retriever, was assigned to Tracey Pettijohn’s first-grade class at Stafford Elementary School. Jerry rolls around in the grass during recess and allows students to pet him before they head back to class. Jerry helps the students stay calm and resist stress. Pettijohn said Jerry recognizes when students need reassurance, and he’ll lay his head on them or nuzzle up to them.

Senior Brooke McNickle said it will be tough to let go of Ellie, the dog she has been training under the program.

“That’s going to break my heart,” she said. “But I know she’s going to a good home for a good purpose, so that helps with the pain.”

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Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, https://www.hutchnews.com

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