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Students Get Therapy Dog

January 8, 2021

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 that can help students in multiple ways, Kreger said. She can be an incentive for students with attendance issues, offer a non-judgemental ear for struggling readers reading aloud, be a calming influence for students with social, emotional and behavioral issues, and provide comfort to students dealing with loss and sadness.

“I think it is especially important right now with kids going back and forth between school and remote,” Kreger said. “Basically, it’s like they’re starting school all over again every two weeks. We want students to have something to look forward to, to be comfortable walking in to school, being around myself and (Assistant Principal Ben) Miller and guidance counselors. We realize kids need some down time and something to look forward to.”

Since not every person is comfortable with animals, students and staff choose when to approach or receive her services, Kreger said. Alternate options will be available for students who have allergies to animals.

Her daily schedule includes being available at non-instructional times: during arrival and dismissal, and during clubs/outdoor activities/lunch periods. She’ll have time to herself, but be available if needed to de-escalate situations with students. She will enter a classroom only upon request of the faculty.

“She’s a great dog. She’s good at just being present,” Kreger said. “She will not seek out someone to pet her. She’s perfectly fine being in a room with people, laying on the floor by herself or having someone lay beside her and pet her.

“She’s a good animal around people,” he continued. “I know how comforting she is for me and my family. I wanted to bring that to our school family.”

Daisy can also be used at other school buildings to help if there’s a loss or during special events. She’ll be accompanied at all times by Kreger, her handler.

The district is sending a letter home to parents to explain Daisy’s presence and offer tips and guidelines on how students will interact with her. Kreger hopes to create a video that demonstrates the correct way to approach Daisy.

Kreger has plans on how to expand Daisy’s role. He hopes to get his wife certified as a handler and possibly other faculty members. He will also pursue therapy accreditation for Daisy.

“We understand that this is a very stressful time for our students, our staff, our parents, all of us,” Kreger said. “We’re trying to bring a bright spot in a dark time.”

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