By Dawn Hatfield
NEW MADISON — Tri-Village Elementary students and teachers were filled with curiosity and excitement as they filed into the gymnasium for an unexpected assembly on Friday afternoon. Some teachers grinned with anticipation based on happy rumors and mouthed the words, “Gus?” to one another, and they were correct. The day had finally come to officially welcome Gus to the Tri-Village family!
Elementary Principal Shane Mead built anticipation amongst students by asking, “How many of you would like to make a new friend?” Dozens of small hands shot straight up into the air. “I do, I do!” came their replies. One clever student asked, “Is it an animal?” To which, Principal Mead replied, “Sure, even we are animals!” so as to not yet reveal too big a hint regarding the surprise. He then stressed the importance of being considerate of the new friend and helped students practice a quiet “golf clap” to welcome Gus.
Suddenly, Gus, a 17-month-old Bernedoodle (Bernese Mountain Dog and Poodle mix), who had been patiently waiting outside the gym with his handler, emerged for his big introduction. The excitement was palpable as the cute and curly muppet trotted across the gym floor to greet the students. Students golf-clapped feverishly (but quietly) with pure joy.
Angie Harrington, Elementary School Secretary, and Principal Mead — also the owner of Gus’s parents — are his trained handlers. They explained to the teachers and students Gus will begin working at the elementary on Oct. 4. He will assist students with social-emotional learning (SEL), early literacy skills, and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). Angie explained that she has had Gus since he was 8 weeks old and has been training with him through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD). Gus has just completed the program and is now ready to begin his job at Tri-Village Elementary.
Principal Mead then emphasized to students the important rules of interacting with Gus:
— Respect his personal space
— Put hand out before petting
— Limit to three students at once (as “Gus can only count to three right now,” joked handler Angie Harrington.)
Bernedoodles are described as the perfect family dog on YourDogAdvisor.com. and are known for inheriting extreme intelligence from their Poodle lineage and intense loyalty from their Bernese Mountain Dog side. It is reported that the first intentional breeding of these two breeds occurred at Swiss Ridge Kennels near Toronto, Canada, in 2003. “By crossing a Berner with a Poodle [Sherry Rupke] was not only able to solve some of the health issues common with pure-bred dogs, but also created a breed that makes the perfect companion — loyal, affectionate and intelligent, and happy to be by your side at all times.”
Individual classroom visits with Gus will begin soon, and the Tri-Village students could not have been happier to hear this exciting news!
For more information about the ATD program, visit TherapyDogs.com.
Dawn Hatfield covers education stories for The Daily Advocate. Have a school-related event to share? Reach out by email at [email protected] or by phone at 937-569-0066.