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Open Conversation: Waco ISD brings emotional support dog to University High School

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Posted at 10:53 PM, Aug 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-24 11:11:58-04

WACO, Texas — University High School's newest staff member, Bear, has a simple job: be adorable and be loveable. And he's very good at both.

"I mean I can't walk down the hall without people wanting to stop and say hello Bear," Associate Principal Beth Brabham told 25 News. "It's been a great addition."

Bear is a one year old sheep-a-doodle who now serves as an emotional support dog at the school.

"I noticed post-pandemic just a need for mental and emotional support for our students and our staff," Bear's primary handler Alyssa Grammer said. "Post-pandemic education is just a whole different beast so having as much support as we could I think would make all the difference."

"We just knew that it would be a time right now where there's just a lot of emotional distress and a lot of social and emotional needs," Brabham added. "Pretty much everybody who sees a dog, it just changes things and we've already seen evidence of that."

The district is just one week into the new school year, but Grammer said Bear is already having an impact on students.

"Immediately they calm down because bear is here," she said. "He has such a calming presence and kids feel that and they're going to match that energy. That helps them feel like they don't need to be anxious to be in my classroom."

For now Bear will stay with his primary handler, Grammer, in her freshman English class. On Monday, several other teachers began training to handle him for the future.

"We're seeing opportunities to where we'll be able to really place him in classrooms or situation where he's going to be needed the most," Brabham said. "He's one dog and it's a very large building so we're trying to figure that out."

Having Bear on campus helps not only the students mental health, but also benefits the teachers and other staff members.

"Every day is just a joyous day," Grammer said. "The kids are always happy because he's in here. Feeding off that happy joyous energy has made it a positive thing to come to work everyday."

"I have teachers all the time who come to me and say 'can I just come to wherever Bear is and just spend a couple minutes with him?'" Brabham said.