GRAND LEDGE, Mich. — Grand Ledge Public Schools students and staff won’t be the only ones walking the hallway this year. There will be some fluffy four-legged friends as well.
Sandee is one of Grand Ledge Public Schools' new facility support dogs and can be found wagging his tail at Wacousta Elementary School.
“Our purpose for the program is really to provide additional social and emotional support for students and staff that need it," said Bill Barnes the assistant superintendent for academic services. "These are stressful times with the pandemic and other things going on.”
Kayden Buchko is in first grade and said Sandee makes him happy.
“Because I like dogs. It will make me calm,” he said.
There are five dogs so far, Sandee, Alfie, Diesel, and Abu are each at different elementary schools, while Sheldon can be found at Hayes Intermediate School.
Two more dogs will be welcomed at the middle school and high school in early December. Then in the spring, the district will get two more one for the early childhood center and another for the whole district.
Each building has a staff member who’s assigned to the dog and takes it home with them at the end of the day.
Sara Taylor is a secretary at Wacousta Elementary School and Sandee's handler. She describes him as goofy, comforting and happy.
“When he puts his vest on and comes to work, he knows," Taylor said. "He’s so excited to come to work and he calms right down, but at home he’s a normal dog jumping over the couch, chasing the kids, trying to harass the cats.”
The dogs are trained for a year by Canines for Change, a non-profit that provides service dogs for veterans and people with autism and epilepsy, as well as providing dogs for schools.
“We take them into different environments so they’re very well trained," said the executive director for Canines for Change Nikki Brown. "They’re used to being with kids in a variety of sporting events and groups of kids with a variety of emotional issues.”
The district's dogs will have a graduation ceremony for completing their training with Canines for Change on Sunday in Eaton Rapids.
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