PALM BAY, Fla. — Every morning Bailey greets students at Royal Palm Charter School. But last year her future was uncertain.
- Bailey went through Paws and Stripes College
- Royal Palm Charter School got her as a therapy dog
- She helps young students get used to school
She was surrendered to Brevard County Animal Services but was picked to be part of the Paws and Stripes College, hoping to apply to be a law enforcement therapy dog. Even though she was passed up for that position, she got a full time job at the charter school.
Bailey went from homeless to happy. Her full-time handler and Royal Palm Charter School assistant principal, Tresa Vernon, says she applied to the Paws and Stripes College for a dog in May 2018, and got the call she was looking forward to in September.
“They have her for eight weeks of training, for many hours a day, and then for us it was one week of training and we went for a couple of hours every day,” Vernon said.
As the first full-time therapy dog in the school system, some students are also Bailey's handlers while in school. Birdy Shupe is one of them. He learned some basic commands and went through some training too, and says working with Bailey is enjoyable.
“We went a couple of days in the week and I learned which side to walk her, how to do commands, and how to work with her,” Shupe said.
Vernon says Bailey is helping students like Adriana Deleo. The six-year-old was sad every morning when her mom dropped her off at school, but ever since Bailey, she's looking forward to coming.
These are the types of therapy a dog like Bailey can provide. Deleo says she enjoys walking Bailey to class.
“Little by little, her mom was starting to leave her at the gate and being able to get her to class,” Vernon explained.
Vernon says Bailey also sits with some students who get anxiety during testing and it's showed improvements in their test scores.
Royal Palm Charter School staff is hoping by having a full-time therapy dog at their school, it will show other schools that having a therapy dog on campus is beneficial and easy to do.
To request a therapy dog, go to the Brevard County Sheriff's Office's Paws and Stripes website.