November 10, 2017 10:47 PM
There's a new kid in school and Denfeld. He looks a little different, but the high schoolers have accepted him as one of their own.
His name is Hunter, and he is a therapy dog that comes to school every day with Assistant Principal Marcia Nelson.
"When we walk in in the morning, it takes me a really long time to get to my office," Nelson said. "He kind of bounces from one kid to another in the hallway or coming up the stairs."
The black German Shepherd is only 1 and a half, but he has had a lot of training.
"Two, three, four years down the road ... this has been his life around high school kids, and they love him and he loves them, so it's a great match," Nelson said.
Sophomore Ally Cook said she wanted to meet Hunter as soon as she found out they'd have a dog at Denfeld.
"I had to see him," Cook said. "At one point, I went and saw him, and it was a 10/10 experience."
Now, she and other students have gotten to know him well.
"Whenever I'm having a tough day or if I ever just want to talk to Ms. Nelson, I always come here and see Hunter," Cook said.
Senior Randy Jugasek said he agrees that Hunter has been good to have around.
"He is there for any student that needs a stress relief because dogs are good with stress," Jugasek said.
Mike Meyer, a teacher and social worker at Denfeld, said Hunter adds diversity and provides a form of tactile therapy.
"They're able to touch Hunter, pet Hunter, build trust with Hunter, build a relationship with him that doesn't necessarily have to be reciprocated," Meyer explained.
He sees many benefits to having a therapy dog around.
"A lot of the students that I work with that have come from challenging experiences and have overcome a lot of obstacles in their lives, to be able to have something that depends on them is an opportunity for them to show that they can be a caregiver," he said.
Nelson doesn't know if it is just a doggie sense, but she has seen Hunter react in just the right way. For example, a student with high anxiety was in her office, and with Hunter's help, Nelson was able to have a calm conversation with them.
"Hunter can just kind of tell, I think," she said. "So he laid down like this and got super calm and laid his head right on the student's shoes."
He's also made working out discipline easier when multiple students are involved.
"Hunter kind of goes from one to the other and they pet him. And they're just calm, and I can ask questions. And they're able to put their words together and put the story together," Nelson said. "So it's not this jumbled, heightened emotion thing."
Plus, a dog is just less intimidating than a principal.
"Talking one-on-one with people, there's a lot of pressure on that," Cook said. "And I feel like he kind of just lightens the mood."
He's so popular, he has his own mailbox outside Nelson's office. She read a few of the notes that had been left.
"I want to pet Hunter to make me feel better during this stressful week," one student expressed.
"We've been very upset lately and need a dog to talk to and pet," another student wrote while requesting he come visit one of their classes.
"I'm scared of dogs," another student admitted. "I was wondering if I could talk to Hunter about a few things. I was attacked by a German Shepherd, and I am still scared, so I just wanted to know."
Those notes serve as proof that in just a couple months at Denfeld, Hunter has made some special connections.
"That's the magic that people talk about when they talk about why you would want a therapy dog in schools with kids," Nelson said.
Updated: November 10, 2017 10:47 PM
Created: November 10, 2017 06:44 PM
Copyright 2017 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved