BELLWOOD, Pa. (WTAJ) — Levi the therapy dog is a part of the staff at Bellwood Antis Myers Elementary School.
Having free roam of the halls, the 13-year-old chocolate lab lends a paw with everything from math to reading.
“He is a wonderful addition to our staff, and he is able to provide in areas that a normal person could not,” Principal Matthew Stinson said.
For example, if a child happens to get stressed reading in front of their class out of fear they might be judged, they can instead read to Levi.
“Levi doesn’t judge. He just lays there and likes to be pet while they read and you can literally see the stress levels go down in kids because reading to a dog is much more comfortable,” Levi’s owner Wendy Bush said.
Along with dog mom, Bush also holds the title of Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA). She’s been working as a school-based OTA for 20 years, while Levi started last year.
“Levi’s been a certified therapy dog since August of 2020,” Bush said.
Bush added she thought Levi would make a good therapy dog because of his demeanor.
“Levi is a very calm dog. He’s gentle, loves kids and always had a special way about him that I knew he needed to bring other people joy too, because the joy that he brought me, I thought he has more to give.”
From faculty to students, everyone is happy that Bush is sharing her dog with the school.
“Instant joy and smiles for the kids. Even the staff, we have some that come in, in the morning, and they know Levi is going to be in here and they have to get their Levi pets,” Bush said.
Along with bringing cheer, Levi helps kids with their fine motor skills, through activities like brushing and buttoning his sweater.
“We also have some kids that are working on regulating amounts of pressure or force to use. Some kids with autism sometimes go at things with too much pressure, too forcefully. Like they’ll close the door and every time it slams they don’t know how to regulate that pressure. So tossing a tennis ball to Levi is one way that we’re working on easy gentle pressure versus hard pressure,” Bush said.
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While some might dread going to school, Bush said Levi gets super excited when he knows they’re about to head to the elementary.
“As soon as he puts that therapy dog harness on, he’s ready to go,” Bush said.
It’s all the more reason Principal Stinson admits that Levi is his best hire.
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“Absolutely, he comes in and never complains which is great,” Stinson said.