VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – A new certified therapist is in the middle of her first year on the job at Hoosier Prairie Elementary School in Vigo County. She’s a 3-year-old goldendoodle named Charlee Jo.
School counselor Meghan Olds is her handler.
Olds says, "She's very happy! She's very excited to come to school!
Olds went to school leaders last year with the idea of expanding the staff by four paws.
Charlee Jo quickly became the school's most popular pup. She greets students at the start of the day and sends them on their merry way at the end. She's available for one-on-one time and group lessons.
Second grader Kenli Highsmith says, "Charlee Jo's a really good dog and she's very happy when she gets to see people."
VonBernd K-9 Training Center supplied Charlee Jo to Hoosier Prairie, after she was locally trained and certified by VonBernd.
Olds says, "At school, it's very important that she is calm and relaxed and soothing, especially with all the kids. I mean, they get excited to see a dog and she has to be able to maintain her control, also."
As a therapy dog, Charlee Jo can help children process their emotions and learn to express those emotions in a productive way. They may not even realize they're learning.
Olds says, "There was a girl that was having severe anxiety, hyper-ventilating, couldn't go into school, just breaking down and Charlee Jo and I just walked in and just let her pet her and Charlee Jo and I walked her to class and was able to kind of regroup and re-evaluate and go to class."
Students at Hoosier Prairie say they love Charlie Jo. They think other schools should have pups just like her!
Highsmith says, "Because if they're feeling sad or somebody's treating them unfairly then they could talk to the dog."
Olds says other school counselors have reached out to her for help getting therapy dogs in their classrooms and she wants to be a resource.
Olds says, "We would love to bring a therapy dog to every school in Vigo County, maybe two!"
You can follow Charlee Jo’s Journey on Facebook.