LITCHFIELD, Ariz. — A school district here has enlisted the help of a new furry friend to boost morale among its transportation staff.
Litchfield Elementary School District #79 recently adopted Floyd, a 7-month-old miniature Dachshund, in October, Tommy Sims, the transportation director for the district, told School Bus Fleet. Sims said the idea for adopting a therapy dog came about after he had mentioned to his supervisor that he wanted to get his own personal dog but couldn’t because of his long work hours.
“We began talking, and I told [my supervisor] I think I want to get a dog … She said 'Awesome, let’s get one registered and trained as a therapy dog for your [transportation] department,'” he explained. “I did all of the paperwork and got Floyd licensed, picked him up in September, and then he started coming to the office in October.” (Note: Floyd is registered as Sims's therapy dog and not directly to the district.)
Floyd has completed several rounds of therapy dog training and will be starting a new round of training in February, according to Sims. Sims also said that he has been bringing Floyd into the office early every day so he can get adjusted to the office environment.
Litchfield Elementary School District #79 currently has a total of 95 transportation staff members, including drivers (which the district refers to as its student transporters), maintenance technicians, and supervisors.
“We have had pretty great morale this school year, but adding Floyd to our crew took morale to a new level,” Sims said. “Floyd is typically out in the hallway every morning after routes and in the afternoon as the team leaves to take students home.”
Debbie Weignand, one of the district's student transporters, said that being a school bus driver "can be very stressful," but "when we get back to the garage and walk into dispatch, Floyd always greets us with a wagging tail and ready to give some love. We have to smile and the stress disappears.”
Theresa Alvey, another one of Litchfield's student transporters, said “I know myself and all of LESD’s transportation staff love Floyd. We couldn’t ask for a better support member in any family. Anytime we see him, we just instantly smile.”
In addition to adopting Floyd, Sims said that the district provides ongoing support and encouragement to the transportation team — from having students send thank you cards to staff to having parents surprise them with donuts and coffee.
Sims added that he encourages transportation departments looking to adopt a therapy or emotional support animal to think it through and ask questions such as: Who is going to take care of the animal on weekends, breaks, etc.? What animal is the right fit for the atmosphere or personality of the department? and What do you want the animal’s sole purpose to be?
“We wanted [an animal that was] small, that could be held,” he explained.
Sims also said it’s important for the transportation team to set a routine for the animal and stick to it.
“It can be a challenge, but [it’s] oh so worth it,” he added.