Finals Week can be a stressful time for students. End-of-year exams, even when a child has studied and is prepared, create anxiety. Bishop Chatard art teacher Katherine Eckart shares her classroom experience with Millie, the therapy dog, and how the puppy love Millie provides can help alleviate stress.
If you were to see me walk through the halls of Bishop Chatard, you are likely to hear someone ask, “Where’s Millie!?”
Millie is our beloved therapy dog here at BCHS. She also happens to be my firstborn “child” among three, including, one brand new human, Gigi (5 months) and our middle fur child, Indy (3 years).
Millie came along 9 years ago. I was fresh out of college and had roommates and a house of my own. Naturally, the next step was to get a puppy! My family had always grown up with golden retrievers so it was a no brainer that my first dog would be a Golden. Here enters, Millie. Millie became my family the moment I brought her home.
Fast forward six years to 2019. I am well into my career as an art teacher at St. Joan of Arc Catholic School. Millie has transformed from a crazy, wild child puppy to a calm, loving and gentle 6-year-old Golden Retriever. She loves people in general, but especially kids. She’s a people dog! She had become the calm to every day. She always knew when I needed to pet away the stress of my day.
I began thinking to myself how I wished I could share her stress-relieving presence with my students at SJOA. I started researching the benefits of dogs with children. I had stumbled across several schools that had their own therapy dogs and it clicked. I had spent years witnessing my students juggle all these tools for relieving their own stress and anxiety when the answer was right in front of me: Millie.
Millie and I spent a few months going through a therapy dog certification program and she passed her test with flying colors. The day had finally come where Millie would join me at SJOA! Millie’s career at St. Joan of Arc could not have come at a better time. As we all know, COVID-19 roared its ugly head in March of 2020. The stress of the unknown, the fear and anxiety that it brought along with it could be felt in the hearts of our little Monarchs at SJOA. Millie was right there, the whole time. I think it would be safe to say she had one of the most important jobs in our building during that time. You could see the stress and anxiety simply melt from our students’ faces the second they saw Millie. It was truly amazing to watch.
Fast forward another two years to 2021. I had finally landed my dream job at Bishop Chatard High School as an art teacher. Millie was coming right along with me! She adjusted quickly to her new role around the “big kids.” Millie now spends her days running between the two art rooms. She occasionally escapes into the main hallway and heads straight to Mr. Jones’ room or Mrs. Luke’s room in search of treats and some lovin’ along the way.
Her needs are a little different around here. Fewer tears and bumps and bruises, but more college application stress, what does my future hold anxiety, relationship and friend drama, etc. I was unsure what her role would look like in a high school setting, but it quickly became clear that she was needed here.
In the short time we have been at BCHS, Millie has already wrapped teachers and students around her little paws. Teachers have treats in their classrooms for her and students make time on the route to their next class to stop and see Millie. Prospective freshmen are always brought by to meet our therapy dog and students will visit who just need a few minutes to reset before continuing their day.
She’s a valued and important member of the community here at BCHS. I am excited to witness the impact she makes on the current and future Trojans that walk through our doors. When you are making your way through the halls of BCHS, please make sure you stop by Art Room B. A wagging tail and little paws will run to greet you at the door, sit in front of you, and ask for you to leave the stress of your life behind for just a second as you give her some cuddles.