Heading back to school is a time that is often filled with many emotions. It can be stressful, exciting, fun, or even scary. We recently chatted with Allison, a special education teacher in an elementary classroom in Utah, about what it’s like to be a Facility Dog team heading back to school. Facility Dog Ruth was placed with Allison in 2021, and they’ve been making a big impact at their school ever since!
Q: Has Ruth enjoyed being back in school?
Allison: Ruth has absolutely loved being back at school! All summer long she couldn’t understand why we weren’t going to work to see all her adoring fans. She was so excited on the first day of teacher training when I put her vest back on!
Once the kids were back in the building, she was so happy I thought she was going to lose her mind. She kept looking at me as if she were thinking, “Do you see all these kids, isn’t this great? Can we go say hi to them all? I see all my friends, are we going to go say hi to them?”
Now, every day she waits with anticipation to see if I am going to put her vest on and take her to work. Each morning as the kids file into the room, she stands up and pokes her head out from under my desk and begins wagging her tail in anticipation of seeing all the kids.
Q: How has Ruth helped make the transition back to school easier for your students?
Allison: Usually back to school night is a pretty slow night for us. After all, who wants to come visit special education? This year was different, thanks to Ruth. Our classroom is right at the end of the hallway with a direct line of sight to the staircase. We propped our door open, hoping to encourage people to come visit us.
I happened to be sitting with Ruth at my feet facing the doorway. Ruth could see all the kids and parents in the hallway and was very excited. As kids and parents came down the hallway looking for their classrooms, they would see Ruth. After making the required stop at their homeroom, they would come and visit us. We had a nice mix of both old and new students, and more students than we have ever seen. The returning students were very excited to see Ruth and instantly wanted to pet her and be squished by her. For the new students, Ruth provided a calming influence. They didn’t have to be scared about coming to a new school or to our class because Ruth was there. We instantly went from being a scary and unfamiliar place to one they were excited to come to.
Q: Has Ruth helped you and your staff make the transition?
Allison: The beginning of the year tends to be a crazy and stressful time for our staff. This year I noticed that having Ruth around made things a little calmer for everyone. My returning staff were all super excited to see her and pet her after the summer. Anytime someone needed a break from the beginning of the school year craziness, they would come over and ask if they could pet Ruth. They would then return to their task or project relaxed and refreshed.
Ruth is a great conversation starter. Because of her, I have found common ground and been able to build relationships with new staff members. People are always fascinated to learn about Ruth, how I got her, her training, and what she does for the kids. We have a new special education teacher this year and Ruth really helped me get to know him. It’s always tricky when you have a new person joining an established team. Ruth helped bridge that gap by giving us something to talk about and some common ground. Ruth opens so many doors and starts so many conversations.
On days when I can tell everyone is exhausted or stressed, I will get Ruth out and let everyone pet her. You can just see everyone relax and their faces light up as they spend a minute with Ruth. She helps us all to recenter, refocus, and reminds us not to stress. She really helps brings us closer as a team.
Q: How has Ruth changed your life as a teacher?
Allison: Ruth makes a difference every day. She reminds me to come to work with enthusiasm and excitement and to go with the flow. It makes my day to see how excited she is to see the kids. She also helps me remember why I got into teaching and to take time to enjoy the little moments with the kids. I can’t picture my life or my work without her.
Would your school or facility benefit from a Facility Dog? Learn more and apply.