Former teacher brings her dog back to the classroom at Henning School

Nancy Brutlag (far right) brought her dog Annie to Henning School this spring to read with elementary students. Annie is a trained therapy dog who also listens as children and adults can read a book.

By Chad Koenen


Brutlag stopped by Henning School earlier this year to visit Pam Amundson. A number of teachers immediately fell in love with the adorable dog. At the time, Brutlag had trained Annie to take her to nursing homes as a therapy dog to give residents a person to call their friend. 

When Wiese found out what Brutlag was doing with Annie, she inquired about the possibility of giving students the opportunity to read with the little dog, which believe it or not, can even turn the page of a book. 

“I told her what I was doing and she said I want you to come here,” said Brutlag. “The kids loved her.”

Before coming to Henning School, Brutlag went through quite a bit of training with Annie both at home and as part of the Bemidji Area Reading Canines. She also enlisted the help of her grandchildren who have also fallen in love with Annie.

“I practiced with my grand kids just sitting on the floor and having them read,” said Brutlag. 

Annie was at Henning School two times over the final few weeks of school and Brutlag said the children really enjoyed having Annie as a reading companion. She was there to provide a big ear and cool nose to help children read out loud and not worry about making a mistake or mispronouncing one of those tricky words in the English language. 

During her time as a teacher, Brutlag encouraged her students to read aloud in front of stuffed animals if no one else was around to share in the story. Even a stuffed animal was someone that students could read to as they practiced reading and pronouncing some of the more difficult words in the language. 

In addition to stuffed animals, Brutlag said she always thought that a therapy dog for students would be a good idea to read to as they developed their learning skills. 

“I always thought it would be neat to have a dog in school. I think they are very therapeutic,” said Brutlag. “We as teachers would say you can read to your stuffed animal if no one else is around.”

Like many animals though, Annie may have stolen the show with one of her unique tricks—turning the pages of a book.

“They really liked it when she turned the page with her nose,” said Brutlag.

A longtime elementary teacher at Henning School, Brutlag retired approximately five years ago and subbed for a few years after that. She now lives in Bemidji, Minn. with Annie, but was excited about the chance to come back to Henning and see her former coworkers and students she has gotten to know over the years.

“It was a fun thing for me to go back to do it in Henning,” said Brutlag.