For the past three years, Steve and Deb Loger and their comfort shelties have been visiting Brenda Hansman’s special education transition classroom at Denison Elementary once a month.

On the first Wednesday of the month, the Logers and shelties Meeka, Sunday and Sage spend from one and one-half hours to two hours, letting the students bond with the dogs.

The students in the transition classroom have Individual Education Plans and spend the day in the classroom due to behavior challenges. They are currently working on transitioning back to the general education classroom.

The visits by Dave and Deb Loger and Loger Comfort Shelties have resulted in an improvement in the students’ ability to focus on tasks, follow directions and engage with their teachers. They also have fewer emotional outburst and display more behaviors considered desired or positive.

Last Wednesday, the Logers and Meeka, Sunday and Sage visited the district conference room at Denison High School to receive the Denison Education Association’s (DEA) Friend of Education Award.

There, they learned that they are one of the Iowa State Education Association Friend of Education winners as well.

The Logers started Loger Comfort Shelties 12 years ago after they brought their first dog, Toby, to the nursing home to visit Steve’s mother.

In addition to Denison Elementary School, Steve and the dogs visit the elementary and middle schools in Odebolt almost daily, do a Read to Me program twice a month at the elementary school in Odebolt and visit the kindergarten classrooms and two other classrooms in Ida Grove once a month.

Steve and Deb and the dogs also travel to Sioux City on a monthly basis to visit four foundation rooms in the Sioux City Community School District.

They also spend time at three nursing homes on a monthly basis.

During the award presentation, it was mentioned that the Logers have found extra time in their day to share their passion for the program, even while Deb currently has a full-time job at Mid-America Publishing – Ida County Courier. On her days off on Wednesdays, she travels to the places that the shelties visit that are a bit farther from their home in Odebolt, and she uses her lunch hour to fit in visits close to her work.

Steve has been retired from his job at Lundell Plastics for the past three years.

Toby, the sheltie that started the Logers’ program, passed away in September 2018. At that time, Toby had made 1,503 visits.

Steve said he still misses Toby.

“If it wasn’t for Toby, we never would have gone to this extent,” he added.

“When they say comfort dogs, I never knew I was going to be the one that got a lot of comfort,” Steve continued. “Three years ago I had head and neck cancer. I had chemo and four surgeries, and what a dog can do in this situation is amazing.”

Meeka, a 10-year-old sheltie, has made 1,962 visits. Sunday is nearly seven years old and has made 1,393 visits. Sage, the newest dog in the program, is one year and five months old and has made 443 visits.

The DEA presentation said that educators work hard to develop genuine bonds with students and that the Logers go the extra mile to allow students to build deeper-level, meaningful connections with animals that help strengthen their ability to build connections in the classroom

“Through the program, students have the opportunity to read with the dogs, lie with the dogs, as well as walk the dogs,” the Friend of Education nomination narrative says. “Students understand the power of empathy as they connect with the animals and demonstration compassion towards them. Without Steve and Deb’s program, our students would not have the ability to develop this skill in quite the same way.”

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