CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. — Eighth-grader Alyssa Frazier says the past year at Newton-Conover Middle School has been tough.
What You Need To Know
Jasper is part of the therapy dog program Dogs By Andy K-9 Services
Newton-Conover City Schools Assistant Superintendent Beth Penley brought the program when she moved to the district
Jasper helps students with behavioral and social emotional needs
Amber Dunn is Jasper's handler and says the past year and half has been tough on students because of the pandemic and going back to school with new requirements
Coming back from virtual learning during a pandemic, students have had to social distance and wear masks.
Frazier says she began acting out and would get in trouble at school, having to visit the principal's office several times a week.
When the school year started in August, Frazier became part of a weekly therapy session with Jasper.
Jasper is a 1-year-old Labradoodle rescue therapy dog trained by Dogs By Andy K-9 Services.
Newton-Conover City Schools Assistant Superintendent Beth Penley was part of the Dogs by Andy program when she worked in Lincoln County Schools.
When she transferred to the Newton-Conover district she wanted to incorporate the program with Jasper.
Amber Dunn is Jasper's handler. She is a staff member at the school, and she meets with students a few times a week while they sit and pet Jasper and talk about any social or emotional issues.
"Coming back from COVID, it's been really hard on kids, a lot of anxiety and lot of stress from being back. I’ve watched him lick a child’s tears off their face. He’s just comfort for them," Dunn said.
For Frazier, the time with Jasper has helped her turn things around this school year.
The visits to the principal's office have stopped, and she has made the A/B honor roll.
"With Jasper, I can tell him stuff. You’re not supposed to talk to a dog like that, but I can tell him stuff, and he won’t run back and tell anybody what I said. I never thought I was going to make it in first quarter because of my behavior in the past," Frazier said.
Conover Veterinary Hospital helps cover any vet bills for Jasper, and the school also had to get insurance for the students so they would be covered for any liability.