Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Therapy dog Callie visits students at West Allis elementary school
WEST ALLIS, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Sometimes the simple act of listening goes a long way.
Callie is a 10-year-old therapy dog who does just that. Each week, she lends an ear to kids at a West Allis elementary school. She's helping kids with their reading and bringing joy to the classroom.
"I don't know how much I believe in that type of stuff myself," Bennett Evenson reads from his book, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid."
Evenson looked pretty relaxed lying next to Callie, reading a book.
"I like reading to fluffy dogs," he said with a laugh, petting Callie.
"They popped it into the oven to bake," 7-year-old Katherine Kangas read about a gingerbread man.
Kangas thinks Callie might even have super powers.
"So, she's like a magical dog," she said.
That seems to be something all the kids at Franklin Elementary in West Allis can agree on.
"She's really nice and cute," Myrah Labocki said.
They rave about Callie.
"She loves everybody, and she's a very good listener," Kangas said.
Owner, Gayle Mandt, is used to it now.
"When I bring her into the building they're like Callie, Callie," Mandt said.
Callie, a 10-year-old Sheltie, has become a well-known fixture here -- along with Mandt.
"Ok! Who wants to read first?" Mandt asked a group of 5th graders.
The pair comes in once a week to hear the kids read -- from the littlest readers in kindergarten to the bigger kids in 5th grade.
"She's a therapy dog, and she basically helps people with anxiety, stress, depression," explained 5th grader Parker Sunn.
Callie helps students just by listening, according to Madison Grice.
"I tend to stutter a lot, which I really don't like. I don't like to do it like at all," Grice said. "So, she's kind of helped with that."
Christie Kleinowski is the reading specialist at Franklin.
"Callie is an unbiased listener. Callie will listen to chapter books, Callie will listen to kids tell stories that they make up," Kleinowski said.
Callie is as happy to see the kids as they are to see her.
"Right when we get here, her ears, as soon as we get out of the car she knows where she is," Mandt said.
"She is a celebrity! Callie is so calm. Callie is patient. And Callie is kind," Kleinowski said.
She's the one who first asked Mandt to bring Callie to the classrooms.
"Gayle is a hero to us and so is Callie, because they've created just that sense of normalcy and just that sense of peace and calmness in our building," Kleinowski said.
Mandt adopted Callie from a Sheltie rescue four years ago, realizing she was special right away.
"They had a workshop -- 'does your dog have what it takes to be a therapy dog?' because she has such a sweet demeanor. So I thought, we'll just see what they say. And they were like, oh my God. She's a complete natural," Mandt recalled.
Now, Callie's got her face on bookmarks, from super-Callie, to cool Callie in her sunglasses.
"They really, really love her. And they each get a picture of her on a bookmark. We have all different ones that we make," Mandt said. "They look forward to seeing her, and they like to hug her, kiss her, sit in the bed with her."
Callie and Mandt are volunteers.
They work through Alliance of Therapy Dogs, an organization that coordinates therapy dog visits in all kinds of different settings.
"She's pretty much adaptable to any scenario you put her in," Mandt said.
Callie is willing to work for pets, and the odd piece of pizza, which she snagged from a student on her way out -- getting lots of laughs.
"She says 'I deserve this after a long day,'" Mandt said with a laugh.
A small price to pay for all of the joy she brings.
"They love coming here and they make it so the kids love seeing her," Kleinowski said. Every day, Gayle is coming with a smile. Every time Callie comes, she's happy."
For more information on Alliance of Therapy Dogs, click here.
And if you'd like to nominate an Everyday Hero, send Natalie a message at NShepherd@cbs58.com.