Sign In

Lucy Helping Students

November 20, 2020

Lucy the golden retriever couldn’t care less about masks and social-distancing protocols.

Like the kids at Regal Elementary School, she just wants a hug, and they’re happy to oblige.

COVID-19 has stolen so much from kids this year, including precious hugs from their favorite teacher.

Thank goodness for Lucy, who’s taken up residence in the office of Principal Tricia Kannberg.

A few weeks ago, as kindergartners were returning to Regal for in-person learning, one of them had become inconsolable at the absence of her mom.

As a last resort, the teacher brought the little girl to Kannberg – that is, to Lucy.

“She was hesitant at first,” Kannberg said. “But we let her hold the loop of Lucy’s leash, and she felt better.”

“She thought it was amazing,” Kannberg said.

Lucy spreads joy without trying. One day she was off her leash and wandered into the Regal day camp, where a handful of older students can engage in distance learning while their parents are working.

“One of the students was so excited to see her, he trips and falls and basically tackled her,” Kannberg recalled. “Then she just gets up and lets him pet her.”

On another occasion, Lucy wandered into a room, walked up to a student and made an instant connection.

“It’s making an impact,” Kannberg said.

The timing couldn’t be better. The youngest learners in Spokane Public Schools, kindergartners and first-graders, are finally returning to classes as part of the district’s phasing plan.

Banished from schools since March, they’ve missed out on social interaction for the better part of the year. But in the era of COVID-19, it’s tough to get a friendly pat on the shoulder, much less a hug.

That’s a big void for many kids who live in the low-income neighborhoods of northeast Spokane, and several schools have responded. Emotional support dogs also are being introduced at Holmes and Logan elementary schools.

Emotional support animals are more than just feel-good stories; they have been linked in tests to improved reading and writing levels along with improved motivation and attitude toward learning.

However, there are good reasons why few schools employ emotional-support and therapy dogs: sanitation and the unsuitability of some breeds to work with children.

However, Kannberg saw the need back in the spring, when schools shut down . Years ago, she paid some of her tuition bills at Gonzaga by working for the Spokane Police Department K-9 unit.

Her job? “To put on the large bite suit to help train the dogs,” Kannberg said. “I did that for 3 years.”

Still a dog lover despite that experience, Kannberg, her husband and their twin daughters decided to look into getting a dog.

“We thought, ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have an animal,’” said Kannberg, who connected with a breeder in Rathdrum and met Lucy’s parents.

“They were both so approachable,” said Kannberg, who bought one of the puppies while a daughter took another.

As the school year beckoned, Kannberg tested the waters at Regal.

“We just gradually brought her in, introducing her to people and the building, and that was the most positive thing,” Kannberg 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