Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, December 20, 2018
Therapy dog provides positivity at Island high school
by Monique Labbe
Upon entering Deer Isle-Stonington High School, visitors may think that it is just another day at school. Students are walking the halls, the office staff is answering phone calls and handing out visitor passes, and Principal Dennis Duquette is making sure it all runs smoothly. If visitors were to linger in the entryway for just a moment longer, though, they would find one stark difference between this school and others around the state.
Duquette’s therapy dog, an 8-year-old border collie and springer spaniel mix named Jake, is as much a part of the daily school community as any student or teacher. He visits the classrooms on a rotation, goes to the library for a brief nap, and mingles with students for a dog-approved treat or to get his ears scratched.
“It’s really awesome,” said freshman Destini Betts. “He motivates me to get out of bed in the morning and come to school.”
Duquette, who is in his first year as the principal at Deer Isle-Stonington, said that the interactions between Jake and the students has been nothing but positive since the school year started in September.
“That’s the great thing about dogs,” said Duquette. “They don’t care if you play sports, or are highly intelligent, what color your hair is. They provide unconditional love no matter what, and I think that’s what Jake gives to a lot of these kids.”
Little Eagle Leach, who serves as an ed. tech. at the school, said that both students and staff seem to have a little extra positivity to them when Jake is around.
“We all like when he comes by. I give him a treat in the mornings, and it makes me happy to see how proud he is to carry it around with him,” said Leach.
The students care for Jake as if he were their own, said Duquette. After a few announcements were made that Jake was not allowed to have human food, signs were made by the students and hung up around the school, making sure everybody knew that Jake’s food intake was strictly canine only.
“Now, many of the kids bring their own dog treats with them to school and keep them in their bags, little Kiblets and stuff, and when Jake goes to their classroom they give him a couple,” said Duqette.
While having a dog roaming in and out of classrooms could be seen as a distraction, teachers, including Terry Siebert, said that the interruption is far from a negative one.
“At first it took a little bit to get used to, but now our doors are open to him,” he said.
No matter where in the school Jake is, he is always able to find his way back to the principal’s office, for a sip of water, some food, a nap on his doggie bed or just to spend some time with his master.
“I don’t always know where he is, but I do know that he is safe and with people who care about him just as much as I do,” said Duquette.