When 6th, 7th and 8th grade students return to school in September and walk through the doors into Howard L. Goff Middle School, they will be greeted by teachers, staff and a little puppy named Bandit.
Bandit is Goff Middle School’s new therapy dog. He is a black and white Havanese puppy who made some appearances at the school this past spring. Due to the positive impact he had on students, research that shows how therapy dogs support social-emotional learning and the success of other similar programs at schools such as Bell Top Elementary, the Board of Education approved Bandit as Goff’s new therapy dog at their June public meeting.
Bandit will be present throughout the building and will become part of the school culture. He will be utilized in counseling services provided by Social Worker James Eggleston, visit classrooms to assist with lessons and be at school-wide assemblies and after school events.
“I am very excited to introduce a Therapy Dog program at Goff Middle School and have Bandit become part of our school community,” said Principal Jill Barker. “We quickly saw students benefit in many ways from Bandit’s presence last year. The reactions from our students support the extensive research that indicate the benefits of having a trained therapy dog in a school setting. A dog’s presence creates a calming effect and reduces stress levels in most students. The kindness and gentleness of therapy dogs help students by simply being present and the simple act of petting a dog produces an automatic relaxation response.”
Mrs. Barker, who owns Bandit, and 6th Grade Teacher Sandy Yovine will serve as the handlers while Bandit is at school.
Mrs. Barker and Mrs. Yovine have been participating in extensive dog training with Bandit throughout the summer. He is currently enrolled in the Canine Good Citizen program, and during the upcoming school year, he will begin Therapy Dog International training.
Students will be educated on how to interact with the dog through lessons and assemblies. The school district has posted educational resources on Bandit’s Blog, which will chronicle the therapy dog program. Additionally, Dr. Lorna White, a veterinarian from Four Paws Veterinarian, will be invited to come and speak with the students to help them learn to read a dog’s behavior.
Parents are invited to meet Bandit and learn more about the new therapy dog program at one of two open forums, which are scheduled immediately before Goff Open Houses.
- Parents of 6th Graders – Thursday, September 12 from 5:30-6:00 p.m.
- Parents of 7th/8th Graders – Thursday, September 26 from 5:30-6:00 p.m.
“Given our positive experiences at Bell Top with Auggie, we want to continue to support the social-emotional needs of our students through therapy dog programs,” said Superintendent Jeff Simons. “I am certain that the addition of Bandit to the Goff staff will positively impact individual students and the school community as a whole.”