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Magic in the classroom

When I first met Peggy Chelgren and her dog, Magic, they were coming toward me down the path I regularly walk.

I thought, "That woman is walking a Black Angus."

But that didn’t seem right. As they drew near, it turned out to be the biggest whopper of a dog I’d seen. Though it was on a leash, I doubted anyone could discourage the canine should it choose to cut out after a squirrel or jogger. I didn’t know then how well trained she was.

Our paths met. Petting Magic's great, shaggy head, I sensed a sincerity in the giant. I had to meet this woman and learn about such a magnificent animal.

Peggy told me Magic was a Bouvier de Flandres breed, a herding dog originating in Flanders, Belgium. Magic stands 34 inches at the shoulder and weighs twice as much as the standard for her breed at 125 pounds. She’s not in the least pudgy, and unlike some of us who face the undoing of shortbread and Norwegian meatballs throughout the holidays, she bears an appropriate weight regally.

When Peggy told me about Magic being a therapy dog that’s registered with Therapy Dogs International, I knew they had a story to share. One look at Magic and you’d know she obtained her K9 Good Citizen Certificate. She behaves like a lady around children, walkers, canes and other dogs. The special pair have been making smiles happen inside two local schools and Kids Unlimited for about three years. Their social calendar is booked four days a week.

A few days ago, I was pleased to brave the early-morning fog and frosty backroad to meet with them at Patrick Elementary School in Gold Hill. The plan was to visit a special-education class. The kids were going to read to Magic. This I wanted to see. Just walking alongside Magic in the corridor was a unique experience. I didn’t know what to expect once inside the classroom. I envisioned Magic fast becoming the target of a good mauling, but the children surprised and impressed me by remaining quiet and attentive while fellow students read, and respectful of Magic as she was of them while lying there like a friendly horse of a dog. One curious young man asked me if Magic could read. I doubted it.

We listened as one boy indulged us all with the silliness of “The Book with No Pictures” by B.J. Novak, a weekly favorite since it was a Christmas gift from Magic. Though she did sort of belie the title by enclosing a sweet photo of herself on the inside cover.

Peggy gave minor guidance to the readers as they came and went and helped with an occasional tough word, while Magic allowed a boy to pet her grand-sized paws and another held her slack leash. She wasn’t going anywhere.

Peggy loves the children and looks forward to their visit each week.

“It makes my day when I go there,” she told me. “Each child is different. I’ve read with (one child) for three years now. I’ve watched him grow.”

On my way out of the school, I stopped in the office to talk with Principal Sara Hanberg. She was friendly and generous to accommodate me with her busy schedule. I asked what she thought Magic brought to these special children.

“They look forward to seeing Magic,” she said. “Magic is a stunningly huge dog. She has such a sense of gentle and something that amazes them.”

I know she’s right because I felt it too.

If there’s a group interested in a visit from Peggy and Magic, feel free to email me and I’ll pass the info along.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer living in Eagle Point. Email her at pcdover@hotmail.com.