Elementary school hires a comfort dog for students and staff

GRANDVILLE, Mich. — South Elementary School in Grandville is welcoming a brand new addition to the staff.

Her name is CC and she is a 2-year-old golden retriever lab mix.

Her official job title is comfort dog, commonly mistaken for a therapy dog, but CC is different.

"Therapy dogs are usually used for specific needs for students who are working on specific goals or objectives," said South Elementary school principal, Darla England. "CC will be able to meet the needs of all of our staff and students."

South Elementary has never had a comfort dog before. So, you have to wonder, why now?

"Really it all started with us wanting to make sure that we were addressing the needs of the whole student. Still striving for academic excellence but also looking at the social and emotional needs," said England. "We have kiddos coming to school who are anxious and stressed. And what better way than with a dog?"
England says many kids come to school stressed out, therefore they aren't able to focus on their academics. She wants her students to feel school is a space to forget about any life stresses and focus on being at school.
"CC is going to be utilized by every single student in the building. Not just students that have special needs and not just students who need help with social emotional learning. She can be a reward for students who want to take a break and read with her, or want to show her what they’ve done in class," said England. "She can be in a classroom while they’re taking a test to just even sit and lay down and help just calm the whole classroom."
By having a comfort dog in the school, England anticipates the students' grades, attendance, behavior and overall well-being to improve.
"Then we’re going to collect data and see what benefits she’s providing to South, and how we can use her even further," said England. "In all honesty, she is a member of our South family, and that’s how we view her."
When CC is not working at the school, she will go home with a South Elementary School teacher and be a pet to her family.
CC is paid for completely through fundraising and local sponsors and did not effect the school budget.

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  • Bighorse

    What about students who are terrified of dogs? I’m certain there are some. How is the presence of a large dog going to comfort them?

    • Jessie Lynn

      It’s pretty safe to assume they’re not going to force kids to go up and play with the dog. I work with a service dog, and I don’t get offended by people who are terrified of dogs not wanting to be near us. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to erase myself (unless someone can help me erase my disability) and stop existing. You can co-exist with things you fear without being up close and personal and in direct contact.

  • Jessie Lynn

    This is excellent, but it’s a little disappointing that it was necessary to include that this effort was paid for by fundraising and did not affect the school budget. It certainly makes sense (many folks with well-trained dogs would probably be happy to volunteer this type of thing, sounds a little like that’s what is happening with the teacher), but it makes it sound like there are a whole plethora of better things than to spend funds intended to help kids learn, grow, and flourish than… well… helping kids learn, grow, and flourish.

  • Darla Francis

    Cannot wait to see a follow up to this! I think it’s awesome! Pets truly are emotional support animals!
    My only concern is for the students who have allergies.

  • Kim

    “Therapy dogs are usually used for specific needs for students who are working on specific goals or objectives,” is not really a true statement. This dog and a therapy dog are the same thing. My question is who evaluated this dog to determine that it is suitable to do this? Who insures this dog? If it harms someone who’s at fault? The school district needs to be very careful, they are after all still animals.

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