He may be hard of hearing, but Otis is intuitive -- great at sensing the needs of children and adults. The 3-year-old mixed breed is a therapy dog brought to school by Mrs. Jamie Woods, director of counseling, and helps "bridge the gap between the counseling programs and the students," she said.
"He makes them comfortable."
"Otis is great at deescalating and calming kids," she said. "A lot of kids who would rather come in and talk to Otis. He's really amazing and really intuitive, and teachers and administrators like him, too."
A family pet, Otis and his sister were found by Woods' son three years ago. When they realized he was deaf, he and family members went through a training program for deaf dogs. He was trained to pass a test as a distinguished canine and is covered by insurance to be allowed to be on school property. Woods said she used him when she worked in Springdale and he now goes every where with her at Pea Ridge.
"I have parents ask for 'Otis time,'" she said. "He's very intuitive."
Otis is used as a "re-enforcer" often -- basically as a reward, both Woods and Mindy Bowlin, Intermediate School principal, said.
"We use him a lot as a 're-enforcer,'" Bowlin said, explaining that time with Otis is a reward for good behavior.
Woods said there was a young student who had trouble following rules and after he was promised time with Otis when he followed the rules, his behavior improved dramatically. She recalled there was a child who was fearful to come to school, so Otis walked him to his classroom.
"Kids will just sit there and read to Otis," Woods said. "He's a non-judgmental listener."
Otis was selected as employee of the month for May at the Intermediate School, Woods said.
She said he is a therapy dog, not a service dog and he doesn't go in restaurants or to the ball games.
"He's such a calm dog. He focuses on the child," she said. "He's mellow."
Woods recalled that when she was interviewed by school superintendent Rick Neal and she broached the subject of bringing Otis to school, he asked if he helped the kids.
"He did not hesitate. It was such a beautiful thing," she said.
"We see him help break down inhibitions for children of any age," she said.
Bowlin said children drew self-portraits of Otis and decorated Woods' office door and hallway.
"You could see the kids' perspective. It was amazing," she said.
Bowlin said the only time she sees Otis "antsy" is right before lunch because third-grade teachers bring food for him and he loves joining them for lunch.
Community on 05/15/2019
Print Headline: Love on four legs