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Waco ISD Adds Therapy Dog to the Team

University High School will welcome a unique team member to the campus this school year. Bear, a goldendoodle emotional support dog, joins the team just in time for the first day of school. This program came to fruition through a collaboration with Bella’s Buddies K9U program, which specializes in training golden retrievers and goldendoodles for placement as therapy dogs in veterans’ homes, schools and charitable organizations.

“I’ve worked with Bella’s Buddies in the past and am happy to partner with them again,” said Dr. Susan Kincannon, Waco ISD Superintendent. “Their success in bringing emotional support dogs into schools is something that I believe Waco ISD will benefit from.”

Bear will serve as an emotional support resource for both students and staff and will move through various parts of the campus throughout the school day. As Bear’s handler and campus leaders learn more about how Bear can most effectively support students and staff, his schedule will be adjusted. After school hours, he will stay with his primary handler Alyssa Grammer, who is the campus’s cheerleading sponsor.

“This is another resource to support the social and emotional well-being of the people in our district,” Kincannon said. “The challenges that the pandemic presented over the last two and a half years have had lasting effects on our mental and emotional health. We are hopeful that the K9U program, new social emotional curriculum for staff and students, and the addition of a licensed professional counselor for our staff will make a positive impact in the district.”

Bear started his residency at University High this summer by attending cheer practice and student workouts in the gym and weight room. He will be on campus daily and will join the cheerleading team at home games. Students and their families will also be able to meet Bear at the Back-to-School Family Fest on Aug. 6, Fish Camp for incoming ninth-graders, and University High’s open house on Aug. 11.

The district will begin with one therapy dog at University High, but a second dog will be joining the team at the Greater Waco Advanced Health Care Academy soon.

Bella’s Buddies brings Animal Assisted Therapy candidates into public school classrooms using teacher foster and student-involved training to enrich the learning environment. After successfully completing the K9U program, canine graduates are donated to schools, veterans long-term care facilities and hospitals, and organizations that serve in low socioeconomic and at-risk communities.

The vision for Bella's Buddies K9U is to join canines trained to alert and respond to specific academic, behavioral and emotional needs with schools and organizations to increase social and behavioral proficiencies, promote physical and mental wellness, and encourage independence in solitary and social environments. 

If you would like more information on Bella's Buddies, check out their website at, www.bellasbuddiesinc.org