The mission of Prairie's new service dog is to serve as a working member of our learning community.
Walk past the Primary School office and all signs point to a normal day: telephones ringing, faculty meetings, the click-clack of keyboards. Open the small wooden door, though, and you’ll find an army of blue and red plaid skirts sitting in a tight circle on the floor, the students’ attention fixed on the ivory curls and wet snout in front of them.
Bellamy, or Bell as her friends call her, welcomes the opportunity to do what she does best: love. Prairie’s newest faculty member is often found in situations like this – surrounded by at least one student, if not more – because it is her life’s purpose: to offer compassion and companionship.
An Endeavor Wisconsin-certified comfort dog, Bell spends her days with Primary, Middle and Upper School students. She is trained to respond to her master’s commands gently and quickly, and to focus on a person, their body language, and facial expressions. An average day of work includes getting to Prairie at 6:30 a.m., greeting students as they arrive, listening intently as PS students read to her, and sitting with students who might be going through increased anxiety or emotional stress.
“Bell listens with great interest as students read,” says Kathy Boero, Head of Primary School and Bell’s guardian. “She never interrupts or grows impatient, just sits or lies next to the reader and enjoys their voice.”
On numerous occasions Bell has been invited to visit MS and US classrooms while students are testing or working on thesis papers. She has visited advisory meetings where students have lost loved ones. She also played a critical role in a recent project conducted by US psychology students out to create a plan helping individuals who are highly anxious around dogs.
And while the bulk of Bell’s work is conducted with students, she routinely offers comfort and compassion to faculty and parents as well.
“Bellamy – which means ‘Beautiful friend’ in French – truly lives up to her name,” says Kathy Boero, Head of Primary School and Bell’s guardian. “Adults come and go, spend some time with Bell, and then continue on their day. She brings happiness and unconditional friendship to students, parents, and faculty members alike.”