PORT ORANGE, Fla. — Spruce Creek Elementary is taking an innovative approach to speech therapy, the brain child of a teacher who adopted a pup and put him through some rigorous training to help children in need. 

Blaze, the registered therapy dog of Laura Kruger, is what makes her speech class different from most others.

What You Need To Know

  • Laura Kruger implements therapy dog Blaze to help with students

  • Kruger is a speech-language pathologist at Spruce Creek Elementary

  • She and Blaze trained for months to become a therapy team

  • Students are more expressive, relaxed and motivated with Blaze around, Kruger says

“We start at the beginning of our word, which is Blaze’s head, the middle is his body and then at the end of his tail,” said Kruger, demonstrating an exercise she does with her students and Blaze.

Kruger became interested in animal-assisted therapy while getting her degree. She rescued Blaze when he was about 2 years old after he was used as a breeder dog. They trained for months to become a therapy team through Pet Partners.

Blaze has worked at the school as a full-time staff member for the past three years, helping children that need a little extra support.  

“Their confidence has just increased so much when they are in here,” said Kruger, a speech-language pathologist.  “I feel like they are more expressive, they are more relaxed and they are more motivated to work. It is always a fun day when Blaze is here.”

The students earn rewards for working hard, like taking Blaze for a walk. 

Kruger’s rescue pup helps outside her classroom as well, cheering up students with behavioral issues or those just having a tough day. Blaze brightens the days of staff members, too. Principal Andrea Hall said Blaze helps more than she could have ever have expected. 

“He works specifically with the speech and language pathology kids,” Hall said. “However, he does work with some of our other kids that can become disregulated kids. He is also really good at helping kids that are working to earn time with him. He makes everyone happy, big and small.”

Blaze, who Kruger uses as an inspiration to her students to show where hard work can get you, even got his own page in the yearbook. Going forward, Blaze, Kruger and Spruce Creek's staff members hope Blaze will be a model for how dogs can be an asset in the classroom.

“I think therapy dogs should be in every single school,” Kruger said.