Therapy dog program brings love and support in Sumter middle school classroom

Therapy dog program brings love and support in Sumter middle school classroom

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Bates Middle School has gone to the dogs.

A 14-week-old therapy dog named Bantam has stolen the hearts and minds of the entire school community at Bates Middle School in Sumter. Bantam, a miniature schnauzer, has joined the school as a therapy dog in training specifically for many of the special education students the school teaches.

Kelly Snell, a first year teacher at Bates, is in charge of training Bantam and said this program has made such a difference. “We were just amazed at the difference in the children. The children would tell us they couldn’t read and they wouldn’t read to us - but then when the schnauzer came, they sat and read to the dog.” Snell also says Bantam, named for their school mascot, provides a lot more than just an educational outlet. "Middle school can be a difficult age emotionally, and so many children are benefiting from Bantam - not just in my class.” Snell also noted that though Bantam is not a full fledged therapy dog yet, the students are in charge of his training, from walking to potty training, and at his 1st birthday he will be given the full therapy dog test for certification.

Principal of Bates Middle School, Dr. Ayesha Hunter, notes that a change in their entire school community has happened, but especially for the male students. "What we’ve noticed is a lot of our males - that sometimes can be seen as stubborn or mean - those are the ones that Bantam will actually go up to and start talking to.” She said that recently she had a young boy who was called to the office who was very upset, and when Bantam entered, the student immediately calmed down. “What an amazing difference he has made in our entire school - it’s just really brought us all together. We hope to continue the program and maybe even bring more therapy dogs into the school.”

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