Fenton High gets new therapy dog, Bella


Bree Soule, Online Editor in Chief

Fenton High has recently made the decision to get another therapy dog for the school. Bella, the new ASD Peer-2-Peer communication/therapy dog, will be introduced in the fall of the 2021-2022 school year.

“Originally, a building our size, it was suggested we have multiple dogs; however, after Sunny was sent to training, COVID hit— so the plan to add was put on hold for a while,” Principal Laura Lemke said. “After seeing the impact Sunny had this year (even with the COVID limitations), the Special Education teachers thought it would be a great idea to add another dog to work predominantly with the students in the ASD Consortium Program housed here at Fenton High.”

During the day, teachers Julie Montana and Tracy Skene will house Bella, the 10 week old yellow lab; however, at the end of the school day teacher Todd Schroeder will pick her up and take her home.

“I’ll just take care of her like my other dog I have and have her live a regular dog life at home, but then when she’s trained to come to school and I drop her off, she knows she has to work,” Schroeder said. “So that’s the good thing about this, Bella will have play time but the minute I drop her off at the door she knows it’s time to go to work. At the end of the day when she sees me it’ll be more of a play dog and no longer a therapy dog.”

During the school day, Bella can be seen in Montana’s classroom, Skene’s classroom, out in the halls and other classrooms as well. There will be no lack of visibility for students who want to meet Bella.

“Our goal is to have her just as visible as Sunny, if not maybe even more because with COVID we’ve had to take some restrictions with Sunny, but Bella will have to be out and about and she’ll have to go down to the middle school too,” Montana said.

As stated by Montana, Bella will be traveling down to Andrew G. Schmidt middle school (AGS) for a couple of days to visit the Peer-2-Peer students there.

“It’ll be a nice transition for students from middle school to high school for kids not only in our Peer-2-Peer program, but our autism program as well,” Montana said.

Prior to getting Bella, studies in the United States all the way to Australia were reviewed about the benefits of a therapy dog in a classroom with students of Autism. Some of the benefits included the following: increased academics and social abilities. 

Bella was recommended by a veterinary friend. After Bella had her personality tested, and scored “outstandingly well,” they decided Bella would be the dog for Fenton High to have around the students. 

“Bella will help us continue communication by having the students take Bella to AGS to help with the communication and meeting new people,” Schroeder said.

Sunny, Fenton High’s other therapy dog, was recently introduced to Bella.

“[Sunny and Bella] have played together a couple times in the library,” Montana said. “Sunny did super well with her. She’s an inquisitive puppy, so she just wanted to play with him all the time. They were really cute together.”

Currently, Bella is undergoing training at the same place Sunny went, Obedient Training. In about a month, the trainer informed Schroeder he should be able to pick her up for the day, and he is very excited.

“We’re excited the administration has allowed us to continue this program with another tool our kids can use to continue their growth,” Schroeder said.

According to Montana, getting Bella is a way to open the students up and “help them overcome a lot of those communication steps that they have and those obstacles.”

Schroeder isn’t the only one excited, however.

“Bella got to meet a bunch of our students last week and it was wonderful, everyone was so excited,” Montana said. 

Students, along with Bella, can also help increase communication for the Peer-2-Peer students.

“When you’re out and about and see Bella, say hi to the kids that are with her,” Montana said. “That’s gonna be the best thing we can do, just more communication for everyone and more social and bring that back, we’ve all missed it with COVID so it’ll be nice to have it back.”

To see Bella and other dogs development, visit https://www.facebook.com/becomingatherapydog/