Sign In

Gus Goes To School

September 9, 2020

A recent Salem R-80 School Board of Education article mentioned the beginning day of a therapy dog at Salem High School (Aug. 25, 2020, The Salem News). As the staff discussed the upcoming editions of The Salem News, we agreed that more to the story was needed.

While ‘Gus goes to school’ sounds more like a children’s book, complete with many illustrations; Gus is far from a school pet or mascot.

Research is plentiful on the benefits of therapy dogs in various environments, including school-age children.

Salem High School Counselor Chelsie Fulton explored this research before bringing the idea to school administration.

Both Marty Anderson, Salem High School principal, and Dr. Lynne Reed, superintendent, had experience with therapy dogs in other schools.

“They were so supportive and totally onboard with the idea,” said Fulton.

First-year counselor Chelsie (Tune) Fulton is a 2010 graduate of Salem High School. She attended College of the Ozarks, then later completed her Masters in 2018. She began teaching history at SHS in 2015.

“Once I left Salem and attended college, I didn’t have that kinship that I felt while living here. When we are young, we can’t wait to get out. This place made me, and I want to help others, and make a difference,” she shared.

Fulton has always wanted to be a counselor for students. She is excited to be in the counselor’s seat, after the retirement of Susan Jadwin this past year.

“As a teacher, I had each student for around 46 minutes per day. As a counselor, there is more time to make relationships and assist further with problems,” said Fulton.

Fulton and Gus began training to help students within the first weeks of his life in Salem.

Gus, a Goldendoodle, turned 1 in June. Attending the K-9 Academy in Rolla, Fulton and Gus trained in four classes. Socialization, two courses in obedience, and an AKC-registered good citizen class earned Gus his therapy license, under the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Susan Hinkle, a long-time therapy dog representative certified Gus. Gus started his work Aug. 31, and will typically be on duty, three days per week.

Fulton provided parts of her research to the board of education at a recent meeting.

Animal Assisted Therapy is a goal-driven intervention, which is directed and delivered by a health, human, or education service professional and is meant to improve physical, social, emotional and/or cognitive function of an individual. Therapy dogs are not the same as “emotional support animals” or “service animals.” Fulton maintains full responsibility for the care and behavior of Gus. If a student is allergic or has a fear of dogs, there are policies in place to support the student in alternate locations.

A typical day for Gus while at the high school includes visiting with students in the counseling office, making trips into classrooms and greeting students in the hallways. Future plans of reading with elementary students, which is proven to raise reading levels; and other trips to R-80 schools will further Gus’ reach and integration into the school system.

“My goal for Gus is to become a part of the school community and for students to engage with him as much as they need or want to. I plan to utilize Gus in a multitude of ways to ensure students have an outlet in whatever emotional state they may be in,” said Fulton.

Fulton said she feels that high school is somewhat inclusive in Salem, but she is not naïve, knowing that there are bullies, and bullying happens differently now. Social media has made it easier for bullying to be a silent problem, leading students to not seek support as much.

“Bullying isn’t black and white, as it may have previously been with shoving in the hallway, and other noticeable issues,” said Fulton.

She sees students multiple times per week for a variety of issues related to scheduling, emotional issues, internal struggles, among other problems.

Students have siblings, or other family members, close friends in the school, so they are interconnected. If one is suffering an emotional problem, chances are there are others suffering too.

Her hope is to help ease the distress for students whenever possible, with Gus by her side.

Register your Dog Schedule a Visit

  • Recent News

    Pet Therapy Program

    Saturday, October 10 is World Mental Health Day, which this year has a new sense of urgency for many. Covid-19 has taken a mental and emotional toll on healthcare workers across the U.S but there is a program boosting the spirits of doctors and nurses on the frontlines. At UC Irvine Medical Center in Southern […]

    Read more

    AMR Therapy Dog

    Rampart, a therapy dog with American Medical Response San Bernardino County, recently passed his Certified Therapy Dog exam. AMR acquired Rampart, a 1½-year-old goldendoodle, when he was 10 weeks old. Rampart started basic obedience classes when he was 4 months old and continued through advanced obedience classes, according to a news release. When he was […]

    Read more

    Workers Get Canine Interactions

    It was a long, boring spring and summer for the four-footed members of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, who couldn’t visit nursing homes and hospitals giving tail wags and doggy smiles. The coronavirus paused the professional canine therapeutic interactions with patients and hospital workers. “You could actually see him falling into a depression at home,” said Wendy Kadish of […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Program

    An initiative by Cyndy Caravelis, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at Western Carolina University, will include a pilot program to use a therapy dog to aid domestic violence victims and their families in Jackson County. Caravelis’ German shepherd Atlas will escort victims and family members into court procedures and stay with children while […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogs Working With Staff

    After a pause due to COVID-19, the St. John Ambulance Abbotsford therapy dog team recently returned to visit staff at several different correctional facilities in the Fraser Valley. The PAWS inside program originally began at the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women five years ago and started off by providing services to inmates. Last year, the […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Bringing Comfort

    The Marion County Sheriff’s Office has a special K-9 who plays an important role. While most K-9s help in crime scenes and investigations, Comfort Caj is crime therapy dog and brings smiles to the community and the sheriff’s office. “He really brings a light and energy to this whole building, that you can’t fathom, you […]

    Read more

    Montgomery County's Therapy Dog

    Montgomery County has a new tool to help give crime victims some support. That tool’s name is Zurg. Zurg is the new therapy dog for the Montgomery County district attorney’s office. Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey introduced Zurg as the newest member of the team Monday. Coming from Canine Companions for Independence, Zurg will […]

    Read more