Service dog is school’s best friend

LEBANON, Ind. (WISH) — It took one person to witness a therapy dog in action at an after-school function for the hallways of a Central Indiana school to change.

A volunteer at a school food bank saw the calming effects a visiting trained canine from another school had on an upset student and the next day Hattie B. Stokes Elementary School received an anonymous donation to cover a dog of its own.

Shamrock, a one-year-old Italian Water Dog, is wrapping up his first school year as a staff member of the Lebanon building.

Training for the dog and handler Megan Williams, a home school liaison for Stokes, was also provided at no charge. The payoffs of having Shamrock as part of the school family are endless according to Principal Kelly Sollman.

“He just brings a different feeling to the building, not just for the students but for the staff as well,” Sollman said.

Shamrock is the first service dog Sollman has hosted in a school. In just half a year of work, she says the dog’s impact is immense and quickly realized.

The service dog is on hand, or paw as the case may be, to help emotionally distraught students, those with special needs and to ease stress from home, on the bus or between friends that can affect education.

“Shamrock can do in five minutes what would take me years to get through with children,” Williams said of her new partner on patrol. “The child can unfold naturally instead of having to process everything with an adult verbally. They can non-verbally and emotionally go through their rollercoaster of any sorts with Shamrock.”

As Shamrock matures so will his abilities. The school and Williams plan to continue training in order for Shamrock to become a certified therapy dog.

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