VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — She may not have mastered “sit” or “stay” just yet, but Dixie Bee Elementary’s newest employee, Beatrix, is well worth the hours of training.
She’s a 19-week-old Goldendoodle and she’s been added to the Vigo County School Corporation’s staff as a therapy dog for Dixie Bee students.
The idea originally came to Dixie Bee’s art teacher Erin Schultz from a friend who owns Vonbernd K9 Training Center in southern Vigo County.
“He contacted me and said ‘does Dixie Bee have a therapy dog?’ because he had been training all of the other therapy dogs, and I said ‘no we hadn’t gotten one yet’ and he said ‘would you like one?'”
Schultz said yes, as did Dixie Bee’s Principal Mika Cassell, and along came Beatrix, aka “Baby Bee”.
Her first day was in January, and she’s been lighting up the school’s hallways ever since then, although she does spend most of her day in the art classroom.
“We usually take a little bit of time and all of the kids are doing their artwork and we’ll call over one table at a time to have a little Beatrix time,” Schultz said. “Then each week, we do have little groups when they have their Fun Friday time, or whenever they have a little free time, or somebody’s having a hard time, the teachers might send them down when I don’t have a class. You can really talk out problems when there’s a puppy there.”
And childhood can certainly come with its problems. According to the CDC, 1 in 6 kids between the ages of 2-8 years old have a diagnosed mental, behavioral or developmental disorder.
During the pandemic, more than 70% of parents surveyed by a Chicago-area children’s hospital said the pandemic affected their kids’ mental health.
Dixie Bee counselor Randa Rector said the support Beatrix provides will cover many aspects of mental and behavioral health.
“Beatrix is going to be able to help with de-escalating issues with the kids, coping skills,” Rector explained. “It just gives them more of that relaxed setting that they’re wanting and needing, because sometimes it can be a little scary going into an office and talking to an adult.”
And while the adults at Dixie Bee work daily to be great advocates and support systems for their students, Beatrix boosts spirits simply by being around.
“The kids just light up when they see her,” Rector said, smiling. “They just smile and you can just see kind of that weight off their shoulders.”
“I wish I could walk down the hallway with a little camera and just show you,” Schultz said. “A kid might be walking down the hallway having a rough day; they see that puppy and they are so happy, it’s like a light switch goes off.”
Schultz said Beatrix still has some training to complete before she is fully certified as a therapy dog. Her biggest tasks to master are active listening and the ability to avoid distractions.