All the need-to-knows about Sunny, Fenton High’s soon-to-be therapy dog


Tyler Soule, Print Editor in Chief

With the recent acquisition of a therapy dog for FHS, there were a lot of questions regarding the safety of students, along with the money needed to train a dog. Because the pros are said to outweigh the cons, starting next year, FHS will have its very own dog in the media center: Sunny, the golden retriever.

“I had been thinking about it for quite a while,” Librarian and Handler Rachel Hassell said. “When I saw how students reacted to Buddy and Charlie [at State Road Elementary and Tomek-Eastern Elementary, respectively], I knew that a therapy dog was something that would benefit FHS students.”

According to, therapy dogs are proven to relieve blood pressure, provide physical stimulation and assist with pain management. They are also turned to in times of anxiety, often provoking laughter and lifting moods in a classroom.

“I have noticed in the past few years that student stress seems to be on the rise,” Hassell said. “In my own personal journey of stress management through mindfulness, I felt compelled to help teach as many students and people, in general, how to manage their stress. While I love and fully believe in the power of neuroscience and mindfulness, there is also monumental research showing how animals can help reduce stress as well.”

When the acquisition of Sunny was officially announced, there were a lot of questions directed toward administration about cost and funding, along with allergies.

“The funding for the dog is coming from private donors,” Hassell said. “Sunny will be brushed daily, groomed regularly, sprayed with a spray to reduce dander and I have a HEPA filter vacuum on our list of items that we are requesting. Additionally, there will be signs posted indicating when Sunny is in the room.”

Sunny will not be allowed to roam the halls, to ensure the safety of him and students who are not comfortable with animals. He will instead be kept in the media center, unless he is being utilized by a specific teacher in their classroom. 

“Any teacher who would like to utilize Sunny in his or her classroom will be required to receive training on how to handle him,” Hassell said. “Sunny will not be roaming the halls for many reasons, one, not everyone is comfortable with dogs and two, we have a very large school with a large student body.”

Training for Sunny to become a certified therapy dog for FHS will take well over 6 months, which means Sunny will not be entering FHS until the second half of next year’s school year.

“I will also be gathering more information from other schools who use therapy dogs to determine how they schedule the dogs daily,” Hassell said. “If all goes well, Sunny will be ready to join us at FHS no later than January 2021.”

For any questions, comments or concerns about Sunny or anything involved, please email [email protected].