Remember the days of the old Charlie Brown comic strips, when Charlie Brown’s dog, Snoopy, was not allowed in public places? “NO DOGS ALLOWED!” were the signs Snoopy would read.  Even though the comic strip was fictional, the sentiment was true. Dogs simply were not allowed in public places except in very rare instances. Since then, times have really changed. Not only are dogs allowed in many public places such as in schools, they serve great purpose; the purpose in many cases is one of therapy. I’ve heard of therapy dogs, I’ve seen therapy dogs, but it wasn’t until one of our elementary schools actually obtained one, that I became truly interested in the benefit of a therapy dog. After interviewing the local counselor/owner, and adding in some research of my own, I truly began to discover the immense benefits of a therapy dog.


Maddy, the therapy dog

Maddy, the therapy dog

At our local elementary school, a therapy dog named Maddy is under the care of school counselor, Robin Butler. Robin brings Maddy to school with her each day and worked very hard to work towards getting Maddy registered as a therapy dog. Below is the interview I conducted:

How did you hear about the possibilities and usefulness of a therapy dog and what made you feel that it would serve your school well? I have attended counseling conferences and read journal articles about the usefulness of therapy dogs in schools.  The benefits of therapy dogs is well documented.  After hearing how other schools use therapy dogs I decided that I wanted to have one to use during my job as counselor. A therapy dog provides a quick calming presence for students and staff and also is a great tool to use with students.

When did you get your therapy dog?  I have had Maddy since a pup.  I purchased her with the intent of training her to become a therapy dog.  Maddy was initially certified as a therapy dog when she was 3 years old.  It was just last year that I went before the board of education to propose bringing her to school.  She has to be recertified each year and I also have liability insurance that covers her and I at work.

What is the difference between a service dog and a therapy dog? Which one is Maddy? Maddy is a therapy dog, not a service dog.  Service dogs go through months of extensive training. Also, service dogs are not to be touched by others when they are working.

Who in the building does the dog serve? Maddy is available to all students and staff.  Maddy is present in the halls before and after school and during the school day.

Can anyone see the dog whenever they feel like it? If we did that then kids wouldn’t be in class, they would be with Maddy. Most kids are content to seeing Maddy around the building.  If a child asks to see Maddy, then they are welcome to come down and visit with her when she is available and not during instructional time. There are also opportunities for students to purchase “Minutes with Maddy” at our student store.  “Minutes with Maddy” can be spent at recess playing with her, having lunch with her, reading to her, or brushing her coat, etc.

Does Maddy have a travel schedule? Maddy is with me during the day. We are only at West, but she doesn’t go to classes with me when I am teaching. Maddy is at school on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Where does the dog stay most of the day? Maddy stays with me during the day except when I have lunch duty.  Then she stays in my office or the school office. She isn’t allowed in the lunch room.

Where does the dog stay during non-school hours? At my home. Maddy is our family dog/family member.

How has it been working out so far? Great! Maddy has impacted not only the students, but the staff. She loves and is loved by all. There have been numerous times that Maddy has helped with our highest needs students by being a calming presence and helping them get their emotions under control.

Do you think more schools should use a therapy dog? I will say that having a therapy dog is great, but be aware that it is hard work and requires total commitment. There are a lot of factors to consider and we continue to identify and work through issues as they arise. As far as benefiting students and staff, it is definitely worth it.

Since this interview, I’ve asked parents in the area what they think of Maddy, and the answers have been nothing but positive. One parent told me that her child loves to read to Maddy. She told me that parents had to sign a waiver to be around Maddy, and that Maddy is hypoallergenic, so allergies to dogs are not a problem. It seems that adults and children alike benefit from having Maddy in the school.

If you are interested in learning more about therapy dogs, there are many sites available such as this one: School Therapy Dogs.

Dogs have come a long way since the days of Charlie Brown’s, Snoopy. They are not only welcome in public areas, many times, they have become essential to the well being of people around them. I’m proud of my school district for welcoming in Maddy, and I’m proud of the hard work Robin Butler does in implementing this program and making it work so well. I’m thankful for schools that realize the importance of therapy dogs.


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