CALUMET — Public schools in Calumet, Laurium, and Keweenaw are the first in the Upper Peninsula to begin using therapy dogs on their campuses. In today’s society many students suffer emotional trauma and the dogs help to keep them calm.
Bleau is the unofficial gatekeeper at Washington Middle school. At an age when all visitors have to buzz just get to the main office, you will also have to go thru Bleau. He didn’t care for my hat or long coat and I had to take them both off before he would stop barking. But, in addition to unofficial security he’s also charged with keeping the 320 students at Washington middle school calm.
Michael Steber is the Principal at Washington Middle school and says, “So it could be anything where there’s a problem at home, a problem with a peer, a death in the family, trauma comes in all shapes and sizes.”
It could be bullying or anxiety about school violence. The studies show 25 percent of students have gone through some type of trauma. But, you‘d be surprised how smiles fill the room when Bleau comes wagging into a classroom. 7th grader Maija White says the fury friend makes her day. She says, “He’s very loving and he always lights up kids faces whenever they see him.”
Bleau patrols the schools in Calumet while a second dog named Tucker handles the Horizons Alternative high school in Mohawk. The social worker here says the dogs help even when the young students can’t express how they are feeling. Darren Kinnunen says, “Bleau’s role is really to sit with those students, help them relax whether it is in counseling sessions or in a class, you’ll see Bleau roaming around the hallways, you’ll see kids greeting him and so he’s been a warm addition to our district.”