Teddy is only 9 months old, but he usually doesn't act his age.
The young golden retriever -- and newest employee at Maine West High School in Des Plaines -- is peaceful, calm and reserved. He keeps to himself and naps in school counselor Lizz Hoover's office until a student needs his help.
"He automatically senses when something is wrong," 16-year-old Faith Pfeifer said, recalling her first session with Teddy. "He'll come over and crouch next to you and let you pet him."
Hoover, a counselor at the school for the past 17 years, hatched the plan to bring in a therapy dog after her own dog died last year. She proposed the idea to school administrators in the fall, and Teddy started working full time about two weeks ago.
A nameplate above Hoover's office reads: Ms. Hoover "And Teddy."
Having therapy dogs in schools is becoming a trend to improve student mental health, Hoover said. Last year, a goldendoodle named Luke began work at Maine East High School in Park Ridge. Prospect High School in Northwest Suburban High School District 214 has Junie, a golden retriever trained at the same facility as Teddy. And other districts occasionally bring in therapy dogs to reduce stress.
It takes a special kind of dog to make it in this career. Teddy had to pass a temperament test to determine he was suitable for the job. He trained for four months in Michigan before Hoover bought him with her own money. Teddy spends school days helping students who experience stress or anxiety to relax and process problems, Hoover said.
On Teddy's first day on the job, a student visited Hoover's office crying and suffering from a panic attack, Hoover said. The girl petted Teddy and talked to Hoover.
"Within 10 minutes, she was smiling and laughing," Hoover said.
But Teddy's effect on students goes beyond Hoover's office, she said.
"I think he does help one on one," Hoover said. "But I think the overall feel of the school is positive. Everyone has been respectful, and he's kind of a rock star around here."
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