Franklin is new to Winchester Trail Elementary School in Canal Winchester, but he is already very popular with students, even though he's the teacher's pet.

Literally.

Franklin is a 2-year-old Labrador retriever owned by intervention specialist Meghan Frey, who joined the Winchester Trail staff this year. She bought him as a puppy while she was teaching in Cincinnati.

Franklin is a certified therapy dog. He earned the distinction after going through training for more than a year with Frey and other trainers and passed a canine good-citizen test before he was able to take the Therapy Dog International test in April.

Besides being tested on his ability to sit, lie down and stay, Frey said Franklin had to complete about 10 different tasks, including walking through a noisy crowd of people with her without reacting to the noises or pulling on his leash.

She said evaluators even "messed with his ears, his paws, his hair and his teeth" to make sure he would not react to someone poking or touching him.

"Franklin actually took his therapy dog tests in a huge dog show in Cincinnati," Frey said. "That was part of the test -- him being able to do these tasks with all of the noise, commotion, people and dogs everywhere."

After Franklin passed his test, he went with her to her Cincinnati classroom once a week in May.

When she applied for a position at Winchester Trail, Frey said she mentioned that she had a canine teacher's assistant.

Principal Lori Green was excited to have Franklin as a classroom regular, especially since another therapy dog had been visiting children at the school for the last several years.

Green asked Superintendent James Sotlar and other school officials for permission to enroll the canine "student" and notified parents of children with animal allergies about the new arrival.

"I really believe in the healing power of animals, how they can calm a person and also bring calm to an environment," Green said.

Franklin usually comes to school with Frey on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Typically, he begins his day by greeting children when they arrive.

"He gets so excited to see all of them," Frey said. "The big part of his day is when one of my kids is feeling angry, upset or frustrated; or say they are having a complete meltdown -- one thing that Franklin is there to do is just kind of sit there and let the child pet him if they are feeling upset."

When a child really needs a break from the classroom, Franklin and a teacher or aide accompany the child on a walk in the hall, which Frey said "can completely calm a child."

Victoria Montgomery, parent of a third-grader at Winchester Trail, said Franklin has already made a difference for her daughter, Tatiyana.

"It's a good thing for the kids. My daughter has been a different person since she's been with Franklin," Montgomery said.

Tatiyana Montgomery said Franklin helps students and she looks forward to seeing him at school.

"Everyone loves Franklin. I love Franklin," she said. "I wish he was my dog."

Frey said she plans to have Franklin eventually listen to children read.

That was one of his tasks in Cincinnati. Frey said it made students more comfortable reading and it had a "profound impact on their reading abilities."

"The impact that I have seen this dog make in a week and half for these kiddos and hearing where my students were last year is just amazing," she said.

Frey and Green said everyone in the building looks forward to seeing Franklin. The school's Facebook page is peppered with photos of him with staff members as well as students.

"We are all benefiting from him -- it's been awesome," Frey said.

"There is just a general happiness in the building when Franklin is around," Green said. "He's a beautiful dog -- and he makes everyone happy."

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""I really believe in the healing power of animals, how they can calm a person and also bring calm to an environment ...There is just a general happiness in the building when Franklin is around."

-- LORI GREEN

Winchester Trail

Elementary School principal