We need more dogs in schools

Published 3:35 pm Sunday, June 12, 2022

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More dogs in schools? That’s right, it’s something that needs to happen across Shelby County and beyond.

If you’ve taken a trip through several of the schools in the Pelham City School system recently, you may have noticed a four-legged, furry friend joining the students in class or walking the halls.

The name? Cricket. The purpose? Make a difference.

If you haven’t seen the movie “A Dog’s Purpose” or if you’re a cat person rather than a dog person, then you may not understand, but it seems as if pups are here to make a difference in our lives.

That’s exactly what Cricket has been doing in her time at Pelham.

A 3-year-old yellow lab, Cricket is considered a facility dog who travels to different classrooms in each of the schools with one goal in mind—boosting the mental health of students.

Pelham City Schools was able to gain access to Cricket through a grant applied for through the State Department of Education after filing an application with Service Dogs of Alabama.

When it came time to choose a dog, Cricket was the obvious choice thanks to her calm and relaxed demeanor.

Now, from 8 a.m. until noon during school days, she is on the job, making a difference in the lives of students.

PCS Mental Health Coordinator Anna Nicholson said she has noticed firsthand how much of a difference the dog makes, saying that when she enters a classroom, everybody’s spirits lift and they become happier, which helps with focus.

Cricket will enter a classroom, sit and lay down, and everyone will instantly become happier.

And while she is meant for the students, she also goes above and beyond by helping the teachers calm in a stressful teaching environment, making her a dog for everybody.

At a time in which mental health seems to be at the forefront of most conversations regarding today’s students, it only seems right that more dogs like Cricket are walking the halls of our local schools.

Logistically, you have to have the funding to do it and the trained dogs to make it happen, but if it is feasible, it shouldn’t be a second thought for other school systems.

Cricket not only helps students relax in the classroom, but she helps with anxiety, she teaches the kids how to respect something or someone with care by realizing boundaries and she helps the students get out of their shells.

She teaches candid life lessons that only she can make happen.

Teachers make such a huge difference already, but teachers with dogs coming in their classroom… that just seems like an unstoppable force.