Sign In

LeeLee The Service Dog

August 27, 2020

A fresh and fluffy face will greet students at Stephens Elementary School this year and provide an added layer of comfort to improve the children’s daily lives.

LeeLee the facility service dog is trained to sense anxiety, concern and behavior changes to ease the minds of students and teachers.

“She can help with social and emotional issues or just bring good vibes,” director of elementary schools Ellen Martin said. “She is precious and we’ve been wanting a service dog in the school system for several years.”

Teachers submitted applications to be the chosen handler and Stephens science, technology, engineering and math teacher Leanne Waldrop qualified to train with LeeLee the labradoodle for a week in Hope Hull. Waldrop and LeeLee stayed in a hotel for a week to practice basic commands and spent time training with Service Dog of Alabama in a school to get familiar with hallways and classrooms.

LeeLee has been training for this work since she was born so the week in Hope Hull was mainly for Waldrop and to establish that bond between her and the dog.

“The week of training was the week before spring break,” Martin said. “So on our way down on Friday for (training) graduation is when we got the announcement that the governor shut down schools.”

Therefore, LeeLee has not actually met any students yet, except for Waldrop’s three children, ages 4 and 6. LeeLee will live with Waldrop and get to be a family dog while at home. Waldrop will be her guardian until the current 3-year-old pup retires. Most service dogs retire after six to eight years.

“It’s going to be really interesting when school starts back to see what the kids have to say and how they react,” Martin said.

Martin submitted a request letter in the fall and sent in the application to Service Dogs of Alabama shortly after.

“The application was detailed and we had to describe the people we serve and how the service dog will improve their outcome,” Martin said. “One of the main reasons I think we were selected was based on our need for a service dog.”

The service dogs are trained to keep students calm, serve as a deterrent for bad behavior, act as a therapist for children not comfortable talking directly to an adult and many other situational responses.

“I’m excited for all the positive benefits our students will have with her,” Waldrop said. “She will be shared with the counselors and is trained to sense stress issues and go to children who need it.”

Alex City Schools paid $6,000 for LeeLee and is responsible for all vet costs, regular medication and crates for both Waldrop’s classroom and at her home. LeeLee wears a service dog vest and an Alexander City Schools employee tag as she is considered part of the staff.

“I am excited for the opportunity to provide the students a service dog,” Stephens principal Ivy Pike said. “We don’t know what they’ve experienced for the five months they’ve been out of school so this will add another emotional layer of support.”

Waldrop will be transitioning to all classrooms at Stephens throughout the day, so all the children will be introduced to LeeLee. 

“It also teaches children responsibility,” Waldrop said. “They can walk LeeLee, with supervision, and there will be rules and guidelines for students to follow during the school day when it comes to her.”

Students will get to greet LeeLee each morning as they enter school to start everyone off on an enthusiastic note. A letter will be sent home to parents of Stephens’ students before school starts to let them know LeeLee will be a part of their daily routines.

During the first three years, Waldrop and LeeLee have to attend Service Dogs of Alabama trainings twice a year and once a year after that.

“It’s a big deal and a very great responsibility to be a handler,” Martin said.

Alex City natives Ann Goree and Carol Lee were two driving forces behind Alex City receiving a service dog. Lee is on the Service Dogs of Alabama board and the two made it their mission to make this dream become a reality. They also hosted a fundraiser last fall that helped with the funding.

Martin hopes to get service dogs for Jim Pearson and Radney elementary schools in the near future as well.

“Anyone wanting to donate to that cause can do so with the Alexander City Schools Education Foundation,” Martin said.

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more

    The Right Rescue Dog

    If your New Year’s resolution is to add a canine family member, good for you. Somewhere out there is the perfect puppy or adult dog for your family. You have a lot of things to think about when you begin to look for that new family member, puppy or dog? Large or small? Purebred or […]

    Read more