In 2018, first-graders students at Reeths-Puffer Elementary School in Muskegon, Michigan conducted a writing exercise in which they wrote letters to their principal citing evidence on how a therapy dog would benefit the school’s students.
Their letters were so compelling that the vice principle began visiting local animal shelters in hopes of finding a dog fit for this important and demanding job—one who was hypoallergenic, well-behaved, quiet, and generally good with all kinds of kids.
Upon meeting Buddy at the Humane Society and Animal Rescue of Muskegon County, she knew that he would be perfect for the school.
Since 40% of Reeths-Puffer students come from low-income households or troubled backgrounds, Buddy has now become an invaluable member of the school’s support team.
“He cheers up teachers who have had a rough moment and supports our school-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) initiative,” says Benner. “We have some highly aggressive students who have elaborate behavior plans. When their behaviors would escalate, our masters-level staff were often unable to de-escalate them in a timely manner. But when Buddy comes in, the students just melt in a matter of minutes”.
“When students are depressed, Buddy instinctively goes to them and lies next to them or brings them a toy to play,” she added. “He is trained to stay at my side as his handler; however, when he senses a need in another, he is drawn to the person’s side and provides comfort simply by being there.”
Further, in 2019, this school was awarded $100,000, or rather the animal shelter was on their behalf, in recognition of this achievement and its importance to fostering the human-animal bond (Petco awarded this prize). In a day and age of such division, fear, and discontent, I am happy to be able to share this with you as my holiday blessing to all of you and the creatures beneath your roof (or out in your yard or pasture). Peace be with you.