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Meet Buddy, the Educational Comfort Dog, who is having a big impact on local kids

Posted at 12:09 PM, Nov 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-10 12:09:05-05

DEWITT, Mich. — Fourteen year-old Bennett Starmer was recently reunited with his friend Buddy, an educational comfort dog, who is a celebrity in many schools across mid-Michigan, including Scott Elementary School in Dewitt.

Five years ago, when Bennett was in second grade at Scott School, the two of met. According to Bennett's mom, Corey, that encounter had a big impact on Bennett's life.
“Bennett was born with Down syndrome. Processing things that might be difficult or hard or challenging takes him a little bit longer and when he's had the support of buddy and that comfort has been really helpful for him.”

Now that Bennett is in 7th grade, he doesn’t see Buddy as much, but still is thrilled to spend as much time with his furry friend as he can.

Buddy's primary role is to offer comfort and support in the classroom, but if you ask any of the students he frequently visits, they'll quickly share that Buddy goes above the call of duty.

“I think he helps me with my work," says second grader Calvin Amendt, "because I think he encourages me. He energizes me.”

Calvin's classmate, Mari Batteen agrees.

“He is a really cool dog and I think he is smarter than all the others because he can do tricks.”

Lolie Fabela, Buddy's owner, serves as the president of Buddy's Pals, a non-profit organization named in honor of this remarkable canine hero. According to Lolie, Buddy, along with his fellow four-legged companions who visit schools, have a profound and positive impact on both the students and staff.

“When you see the kids come out in the hallway and they grab on to Buddy and the next thing you know, they're crying. And you ask if they are okay. They say, ‘Yeah. My cat died and I missed them.’ And it was like, you just tell Buddy what's going on. And they do. By the time they are done, they are happy.”

Scott Elementary School Social Worker, Deann Schwartz, says she has seen positive changes in the students since Buddy first started visiting.

“Buddies Pals are good neighbors because they just want to help bring positive energy and light to kids and to our staff. Buddy he can sense when someone's having a rough day and he will go right up to them. And it can change their whole day around; kids’ adults’ alike.”

Buddy’s PALS has over 55 handler teams in the Greater Lansing area that volunteer in schools, libraries and other partner organizations.

We'd like to extend our gratitude to Buddy and his dedicated canine companions who are providing comfort and support to hundreds of people.

This week, we proudly recognize Buddy and his pals as our "Good Neighbors."

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Bob Hoffman

Bob Hoffman

9:44 PM, Nov 26, 2018

Good Neighbors Host

Bob Hoffman

Good Neighbors
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