Mt. Vernon R-V Schools welcome two new staff members

Angel Daniels

Mt. Vernon R-V Schools is excited to welcome two new employees. Pictured are Dunbar (left) and Glee(right) with their handlers and co-handlers Christina West, Jessica Daugherty, Brooke Burch and Jill Cook.
Dunbar and Glee are Professional Therapy Dogs gifted to the district by CARES, Inc. Dunbar will be working at the Elementary School with counselor, Jessica Daugherty and principal, Christina West. Glee will be working at the Early Learning Center with Pre-K teacher, Brooke Burch and secretary, Jill Cook.
Read more about both of them and this exciting program on page 4. (Photo by Angel Daniels)

Glee will be working at the Early Learning Center. and living with her handler Brooke Burch. (Photo by Angel Daniels)

Glee (left) and Dunbar (right) spent much of the time resting, as it seems being so famous is very exhausting. (Photo by Angel Daniels)

Dunbar will be living with and working with his handler Jessica Daugherty in the Elementary School. (Photo by Angel Daniels)

Both dogs wear a vest which identifies them as a CARES, Inc. certified “Assistance Dog.” (Photo by Angel Daniels)

Professional Therapy Dogs will bring comfort to both children, staff at ELC, Elementary School

Exciting news this week from the Mt. Vernon R-V School District as they welcomed two new Mt’neers to the staff. Laborador retrievers Dunbar and Glee will be two of the newest members of the staff at the Early Learning Center and the Elementary School serving as Professional Therapy Dogs.
The district will be implementing a new ‘Therapy Dog’ program, five years in the making. In 2018, the district submitted a request to obtain a therapy dog for use in the Elementary School, along with a request by one of the teachers to have one of her own. They were told at the time that it would take approximately three years to get approved, however, when COVID hit the timeline changed. This past spring, the district received word that their opportunity to receive a therapy dog had arrived and, to their surprise, they would actually receive both of the dogs they’d requested.
Dunbar is a male, black lab and Glee is a female, yellow lab. They are both one year and eight months old and, although they are not litter mates, they both share very close birthdays in January.
Mt. Vernon Elementary School principal Christina West expressed her enthusiasm on the matter.
“I’m excited to see their impact on students,” West said. “We’re always looking for ways to help kids be successful and kids have a really hard time expressing themselves and their feelings. It’s going to be fascinating to see how Dunbar and Glee help the kids handle their emotions.”
The animals will be cared for by ELC Pre-K teacher Brooke Burch and Elementary School Counselor Jessica Daugherty.
As Dunbar and Glee lay sleeping at their feet, Daugherty and Burch shared how excited they are to have both dogs in the schools to help with the kids and staff alike.
“I’m excited about the impact that Dunbar will have on the school culture and the community,” Daugherty said. “Staff and kids having a tool that they can use when they are stressed or sad will be a huge benefit. I’m excited about the light they will bring to the schools.”
Burch resonated those same thoughts.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces, I’m excited to see the happiness and excitement that Glee will bring to the Early Learning Center students and staff,” Burch said.

Highly trained professional therapy dogs
Dunbar and Glee are highly trained ‘Professional Therapy Dogs’ who are the property of the Mt. Vernon R-V School District. Burch and Daugherty, as well as secondary handlers Jill Cook and Christina West, underwent a week of specialized training on proper vocabulary, commands and handling at the Canine Assistance Rehabilitation Education Services (CARES) headquarters in Concordia, Kan. They did this in order to supervise the animals and utilize the program to its fullest potential. They were tested on how to properly handle their canines and once training was complete they had to pass a public access test to introduce the dogs to kids.
Both dogs were bred specifically for service, and selected specifically for professional therapy by CARES, which works with four prisons to train their canines which takes about a year and a half to complete the process. Professional Therapy Dogs are trained to pick up on stress, anxiety, depression and anger. They are trained to use pressure techniques to help relieve the stress/anxiety/anger/sadness when they sense it. Techniques such as leaning, one or two paws on lap, and occasionally laying on the person.
Dunbar was sent to Leavenworth Federal Prison, in Leavenworth, Kan. where he received his training. Glee was sent to Ellsworth Correctional Facility in Ellsworth, Kan. for her training.  After nine months of training, they were both transferred to Springfield Federal Medical Prison for socialization training and their final testing. Part of the handler training included a “Prison Day” where they got to see the prisoners who helped with the training.
“Prison day was life changing,” secondary handler Cook said. “The prisoners were so proud of their dogs. They were emotional but thankful that their dogs were going to be able to go out and help so many kids because of the training they gave them.”
The prisoners who train have to go through a selection process and it is very difficult to get in to the program. Out of Ellsworth Correctional Facility’s 650 prisoners, only 20 are selected to train and there is a long waiting list for prisoners wishing to also train.
Research has shown the use of Therapy Dogs to be highly beneficial in helping student behavior, engagement and motivation, as well as promoting a positive culture in the school community.
West further shared her positivity in the program.
“I spoke with so many people and school districts and the stories they told me about how much their dogs helped kids and staff with feelings of anger and sadness made me so excited for what they could do to help our students and staff,” West said.

Dogs will be accompanying handlers wherever they go
Professional Therapy dogs are trained to accompany their handlers everywhere they go, including school, shopping, restaurants and anywhere else their handler travels.
Glee will be the responsibility of Burch. She will live in Burch’s home and travel wherever she goes, however, while she is at school she will initially spend her days in the office with her secondary handler, ELC secretary Cook.
“Until the kids get into a routine and get acclimated to the environment, Glee will be spending the majority of her time in the office with me.” said Cook. “I’m so excited to see the impact they will have on the kids and staff.”
The timeline for Glee’s full-time introduction to the classroom is not set. It will be handled gradually to ensure the comfort and safety of the students—as well as Glee.
Dunbar will be the responsibility of Daugherty. Dunbar will live with Daugherty and her family and spend much of his time in the classroom with her. The plan will be to introduce him to students during the first weeks of school. Daugherty plans to use counseling time in her classroom to introduce Dunbar. When not by Daugherty’s side, Dunbar will spend time with secondary handler West. Between Daugherty and West, Dunbar will also visit students and staff in their classrooms as well.
Eventually, the district plans to add a canine at each school. The intermediate school is already in the process of applying for their canine and the middle and high school plan to follow soon.



Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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