Willow’s year at the Caledonia Elementary School received much praise from both students and staff. At the regular school board meeting Sue Howe, the elementary school counselor, shared that feedback with the board and administrative staff. She shared this information for the school board’s consideration of renewing the contract to have a pet therapy dog for the 2019-20 school year.
Willow’s first day at the elementary school was October 15, 2018. Since that day Howe has kept a record of student feedback and how Willow’s presence has impacted them. Willow spent an average of four days per week doing responsive services, individual small groups, and school wide guidance curriculum.
Majority of the staff responded positively to having Willow around.
“96 percent of staff believed Willow’s presence creates positive learning in our school,” Howe said. “There were many positive comments from the staff.”
“I witnessed first hand the impact Willow has had on certain students, many students who have various emotional needs are better able to return to class more efficiently and effectively after being around Willow,” a staff member reported.
Howe was interested in seeing if Willow decreased stress and anxiety of the students.
“95 percent of the staff believed that she did,” Howe said. “I’ve definitely seen a huge decrease in the stress of students.”
There were some things to learn about having Willow around.
“I did learn that bringing Willow into the lunchroom was not appropriate or helpful,” Howe said. “Static electricity was an issue. She was acting strange after Christmas break and here she was getting shocked when the students and staff would pet her, so having a humidifier in the classroom and using Pantene really helped with that.”
There were moments of the year where Willow would respond to a situation without guidance. Her training took over and she would go where she was needed on her own.
“There was several times where Willow would go to students and seek them out,” Howe said. “Not even students and staff knew that they were in an anxiety state.”
Willow’s assistance with improving a students mood was often times noticed immediately.
“There is times where those children have come to my room, or have refused to get out of a parents, or be in the office crying,” Howe said. “I bring them down to my classroom and within several minutes they are smiling and ready to return back to work.”
Willow’s impact has even carried over to the families of students. Some students had come back from winter break saying she was the reason why they were getting a dog.
“I think we may have increased the dog population in Caledonia and the surrounding area,” Howe said. “Around Christmas time everybody kept telling their parents, this is Willow the dog and the reason why we are getting a dog now.”
The board did approve a resolution in regards to a pet therapy dog for the 2019-20 school year.