Meet Lucy: Reed City schools' newest therapy dog

'Her overall role is to elevate the mood,' high school principal says

NOTE: This is the first story in a series on Reed City Area Public Schools' therapy dogs and their owners. 

REED CITY — During a pandemic having a dog around can be a blessing and Reed City Area Public Schools is taking advantage of the furry companions in hiring their newest therapy dog, Lucy. 

Lucy, a 6-year-old pitbull, is joining the ranks of three other working dogs within the district: Toby, Butterscotch, and Poppins. 

Matt Hudson, principal at Reed City High School and Lucy’s owner, said she was practically born to be a therapy dog despite the bad reputation pitbull often get. 

“Lucy is extremely friendly and loves people, as are all pitbulls that are raised correctly,” Hudson said. “They also have high pain tolerances which makes them good for working with toddlers because toddlers don't pet, they smack and it wouldn't bother pitbulls, and they are extremely loving — big cuddlers. They also love attention, so the opportunity for her to be around so many people and get a ton of attention seemed like a perfect mix for her to spend a few days at school.” 

Hudson said Lucy’s training involved a lot of interaction to prepare her for a school environment with lots of people and movement. 

“Lucy has been through obedience class when she was a puppy and then had to be observed and tested with a certified therapy dog trainer to ensure she was good with other animals and people," he said. "There was a session where she needed to be obedient and calm around another dog, then she needed to go out into a store to be observed around a large number of people to see if she remained calm, then finally she had to be in a workplace and calm. She passed with flying colors."

Hudson said Lucy is available to any students who is having a hard time.

“Sometimes a student is meeting with our counselor or behavioral interventionist and the student requests to spend time with Lucy while they meet," he said. "Other times, students come to me to ask to spend a few minutes regulating emotions. She isn't assigned to work with specific students on a schedule. 

“She is also in the hallways before school, at passing time, at lunches and dismissal. Her overall role is to elevate the mood and emotions of our student and staff population, and a number of staff members have asked to pet and spend time with her.” 

According to Hudson, Lucy doesn’t have any specific skills, but her temperament, in general, is perfect for the job. 

“She loves to be around people,” Hudson said. “She also has this way of making people who do not like dogs love her. Overall, students seem to really like her. Many students will stop and pet her on their way to class. Students will simply walk past her and say 'Lucy!'" 

"I'll take her into the cafeteria during lunches and that's when she gets the most attention because kids are not rushing to class. It's their downtime. She is extremely friendly, with lots of smiles from both students and Lucy, and tail wagging. Lots of tail wagging."

Hudson said Lucy is an important part of maintaining student and staff wellbeing and does well within the busy school environment. 

“We have been focusing on social/emotional health as a district these past few years, and COVID only brought the need for this to the forefront,” Hudson said. “Most students also have pets in their home, and many tell me they have a pitbull as well. It's a dog-friendly community, and there is no fear of her breed. Lucy's temperament and the emotional needs of our students made it the perfect fit for her.

“I've asked students after they pet her a simple question: 'Do you feel better after petting Lucy?'" Hudson said. “The answer is always yes regardless of whether it's after an emotional episode requiring 10-15 minutes to regulate or a 10-second pet on the way to class. When kids are upset, Lucy doesn't make their problems go away, but it helps them reset so they can continue on with their day."

Hudson said he regularly sees kids walk down the hall with a frown, see Lucy, and their attitude immediately changes and they spend a minute petting and loving on her. He can see that 'they move on a little happier' than before they saw her.