Meet the pack

BHS’s emotional support dogs are full of personalities at school and at home

Underneath+the+Christmas+tree%2C+Caesar+%28retired%29+and+Jack+wearing+festive+costumes.

Underneath the Christmas tree, Caesar (retired) and Jack wearing festive costumes.

Avarie Willey, Staff Writer

Brighton Area Schools is the first school in the nation to have therapy dogs at every school in the district. Emotional support dogs can help students who feel anxious, sad, upset or any emotions at school. Children can also read to the dogs to help improve their reading aloud and storytelling skills. These therapy dogs can help without saying words. 

Elementary school children practice reading stories to Alley.

BAS has 12 emotional support dogs throughout our district and at least one at each of the nine schools. BHS has Alley, Keeper and Jack. Caesar was the first emotional support dog and retired in June 2019.

Although our pack supports us, students need to support them. Each dog, like a human, has individual needs and personality.

The oldest of the pack, only two and a half years old, is an English lab named Alley. She lives with teacher Jonathan Wendrick’s family. Alley is cute, shy and calm. At home, she loves her stuffed animals and running around the yard. She also loves other dogs. 

Being silly as a leprechaun, Alley.

Alley enjoys being pet on her back and chest. She doesn’t like being pet her head. She also dislikes being petted when in a crowded hallway. When approaching Alley, it is best to approach her calmly on her level and talk to her and not to approach her loudly, aggressively and with screechy voices.

At school, she can be found in Wendrick’s room, with Shelly Gill during fifth hour and in other classrooms throughout the day.

Another member of the pack is Keeper, a two-year-old yellow lab. She lives with Jennifer Sprys-Tellner, the 10th-grade principal. While at school, she is mellow but lately has become more lively and will wander off.

In the sunshine, Keeper lays down for a picture.

“She kinda has a mind of her own sometimes. She will just sit herself down in the middle of the hallway,” Sprys-Tellner said.

At home, Keeper is a lot more active and she loves to cuddle. She follows Sprys-Tellner around “she’s like a shadow”. She also loves playing with Sprys-Tellner’s other dog.

When approaching Keeper, it is best to come at her slowly. If you get right in her face, she will back off. 

At school, Keeper’s ‘typical’ areas are the back office or counseling. Although, she does love to hang out with Jack. 

The puppy of the pack, Jack, is a black labrador retriever. He just turned one-years-old last November. He lives with Special Education teacher, Jodi Renicker. He is very, very sweet. While at school, he loves his other dog friends and lying on people’s feet. 

“I say his eyes fit places his body doesn’t because he will lay right on you or underneath you. He kind of is always getting under-foot. He likes to be touching people,” Renicker said.

While at home, Jack loves to be touching and laying near Caesar. (Caesar was BAS’s first emotional support dog who retired in June 2019 and is also owned by the Renicker family). 

To make Jack comfortable, it’s important to get down on his level and crouch. He can also get startled and scared a bit because he is a ‘chicken’; he will run from loud noises.

Jack also enjoys watching TV. He barks at other animals on the TV.

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At school, Jack can be found in Renicker’s room and teacher Andrea Lundy’s sixth hour and sometimes with other teachers.

Viewing the positive impact BAS’s therapy dogs have had, other schools may be more inclined to add a therapy dog to their district.