In 2007, a big black Labrador Retriever, Champion Balrion Weathertop Nor’wester, walked into a Council Rock elementary school to work with six second grade students in a Language Arts Resource Room class.
Nicknamed Wes, he immediately started to work his magic on these reluctant readers and learners, and soon the students started calling his visits “Wes Wednesdays.”
As the year progressed, the teacher noticed that Wes helped give purpose to academic goals. Thinking creatively, she built her instruction around the dog’s weekly visits, motivating the students to make positive strides in reading and writing.
The building principal also witnessed the magic when she observed the newly found confidence displayed by the learning challenged students.
She shared one of her favorite education quotes, “Confidence is a memory of success,” and said, “Wes has given these students that memory.”
And Nor’wester Readers was born. As the word spread about the academic success being fostered by our therapy dogs, we began receiving requests from teachers and other school districts for our services.
Our dogs create magic wherever they go. In 2016 we changed our name to Nor’wester Therapy Dogs because our program has become unique as an academic learning program. While “reading dog” organizations emphasize using therapy dogs to foster motivation and a love for reading with students having reading challenges, Nor’wester Therapy Dogs expanded into all facets of the educational curriculum to become a true canine partners in education program.
The brainchild of Council Rock parent and Labrador Retriever breeder, Wendi Huttner, Nor’wester Readers was founded in 2007 by Wendi and Deborah Glessner, a retired Council Rock librarian and district library-media coordinator. Nor’wester Readers was granted nonprofit status in 2010.
The therapy dog teams work in a wide variety of educational environments, promoting motivation and achievement with students in learning and autistic support, life skills, multiple disabilities, social and emotional support, as well as in regular education and inclusion classrooms. In addition, our therapy dog teams also provide support to school district crisis intervention teams and in specialized counseling situations.
In 2018, the Nor’wester organization was invited to pilot its COMFORT DOGS ON CAMPUS program at Bucks County Community College’s Newtown, Pennsylvania campus. We partner with the Accessibility Office to provide therapy dogs for emotional support during high stress times such as exams, crisis intervention, and other rigors of college life.
The Nor’wester Therapy Dogs: Canine Partners in Education is entirely funded by and dependent on generous donations and sponsorship from individual supporters and area businesses. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to help keep the magic alive for those who benefit from the powerful work being provided by our therapy dog teams.