ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) — From political and social upheaval to a pandemic of historical proportions, it’s tough for many adults to cope.
Now imagine being a high school student.
Jocelyn Donaldson Schwartz is a voice of that generation and what many of them are going through.
“I am a very shy person. I don’t really talk in class or participate very much because of social anxiety, mostly,” Donaldson-Schwartz said. “Being a kid, a lot of people don’t listen, or think their voice matters.”
But sometimes, coping with life’s problem scan be as simple as talking to a friend. One who doesn’t argue. One who doesn’t judge.
At Allegan High School, that’s where an 18-month-old chocolate Labrador retriever named Dublin comes in.
“Dublin is kinda there no matter what. He doesn’t care how old you are. Like what your opinions are. He’s just there to listen,” Donaldson-Schwartz said. “It’s easier to deal with the school part. Obviously, the world is still hard. He’s not very much help with that. But the being here is easier.”
Allegan school district officials, looking for a unique way alleviate some of the stress, brought Dublin on board at the start of the new semester a few weeks back. Trained by Wayland-based Paws With A Cause, Allegan High School Dean of Students Justin Hudson says Dublin, who stays with another teacher when he’s not at work, helps students and staff get their minds off their troubles.
“We get so caught up. But if you look at taking care of somebody else maybe, or taking care of an animal, it kinda of puts things in perspective of maybe putting yourself second or third down the list to help others out,” Hudson said. “It’s hard to measure that on a chart so to speak. But we know that our kids just feel more welcome and they feel more apart of things, having Dublin here.”
Allegan is among only a few area school districts to adopt a support dog through Paws With A Cause. Ionia has also has a K-9 counselor and a dog named Beasley has been at work at Southeastern Elementary in Hastings.
Paws With A Cause plans to ramp up promotion of the effort to place more therapy dogs in schools in the coming months.
Dublin came to Allegan High, thanks to a $5,000 donation from local resident Judy Graff. A GoFundMe page is helping pay for things like kibble and vet bills.
But what Dublin gives in return can’t be measured in cash.
“I feel like they can just see the good in you,” Donaldson-Schwartz said. “And that’s all they care about.”
If you’d like to follow along with Dublin’s adventures in the halls of Allegan High, his daily routine is posted on the high school’s Facebook page, which can be found at facebook.com/alleganhs.
**Correction: A previous version of this article stated Allegan was the second school in West Michigan to adopt a counselor dog from Paws With A Cause. The organization later clarified another dog had previously been adopted by the Hastings elementary school. We have updated the article.