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Students to pen book inspired by puppy with brain damage
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Friendship Elementary teacher Sheryl Chester holds James Edward Higgins, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Wednesday afternoon while her fourth-grade students reach to touch the puppy during class. The dog, which suffers from symptoms similar to cerebral palsy in humans, was brought to class to help inspire the students to write a book about the puppy to be read to children in hospitals. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

James Edward Higgins was a hit with all the boys and girls on his first day of school.

The entire fourth grade at Friendship Elementary School in Buford clamored for his attention.

“He’s so cute,” Brooke Mayberry, 9, gushed after meeting the 4-month-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel.

“He’s cute and kinda funny,” Madelyn Godfrey, 10, said, giggling.

The students gathered around the puppy in a circle and took turns petting him and sharing their observations.

Some students wanted to know how much the small puppy weighed and where his breed came from.

Other students wanted to know more about why he walked differently from other dogs.

James Edward Higgins received neurological damage at birth that has made it difficult to use his hind legs, giving him a condition similar to cerebral palsy in humans.

Since his owners, Craig Highfield and Holly Crumley, found out the puppy would have difficulty with his movement and balance they enrolled him in physical therapy several days a week. Now the puppy is walking and running with relative ease. But he still needs to take frequent breaks and sometimes falls over.

The students found his limitations endearing.

“When he got comfortable in one place he just fell over on his back and started squirming around,” Austin Guinn, 9, said.

The puppy is going to be a therapy dog when he is old enough to be certified, according to his owners.  

“He has to be able to adapt and be in schools and hospitals,” said Sheryl Chester, fourth-grade teacher at Friendship. “He has to be able to go from person to person and let them pet him and be around loud noises.”

Chester also works with the puppy at Cavaliers by Crumley, a kennel in Lula that Crumley runs, and she will take the puppy to visit children in hospitals.

The students plan to write a book together about the puppy, and Chester will read it to the children in the hospital.

Chester also has been inspired by the puppy and is working on two children’s books of her own about his first day of school and the day he found out he was special. To help the students with their assignment Chester passed around photos of the puppy doing things they could relate to, like swimming, skateboarding, playing basketball and sitting behind the wheel of a tractor.

Inesh Shrotria, 9, said he doesn’t know what exactly he’ll write about yet but said meeting the puppy will make his descriptions much easier.

“He’s really soft. I’ll write about his color and what he reminds me of — a cow,” Inesh said.

Corey Thomas, 9, said he’ll write about the puppy taking a dip in a pool and about the way it felt to pet him.
“He’s so cute. He’s soft as a cloud,” Corey said.

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