What makes you say “Aww,” and relieves stress immediately? That’s right, it is Boaz City Schools’ latest employee, Sully! Introduced at the latest Board of Education meeting, Sully is the first facility dog in north Alabama. After much preparation and a grant with Service Dogs of Alabama and The Alabama Department of Education, Juddie Walker’s, Media Specialist at Boaz High School, dream of having a Boaz City School System furry friend came true.
Mrs. Walker wanted a facility dog to bring comfort and relieve stress for all students. Sully is a golden doodle who is one and a half years old and has been in training his entire life. He has spent time training in Hope Hull at SDA headquarters, in a prison, and with a finishing trainer. Sully is trained to be able to sense oncoming seizures and help relieve stress. Calming students is what Sully has been designed to do his whole life. On the other hand, Sully is still a regular, cuddly, and playful dog. “He enjoys playing catch with tennis balls and running around the house,” Walker says in an interview at Boaz.
Depending on schedules and activities within the schools, Sully spends half of the week at Boaz Elementary and half of the week at the high school. He will only travel to the other three schools by request or if needed. There are rules and procedures to follow at school while Sully is on the premises. All faculty and students must comply with these rules or be subject to the consequences for breaking school rules and procedures regarding school employees. A few of the key rules are 1.) Students and faculty should not attempt to pet Sully until Mrs. Walker gives him the “Say, hello, Sully” command, 2.) Sully is not to be given any food or drinks, 3.) Sully’s purpose is not to become a distraction in class and disrupt lessons.
In order for Sully to know he is on the job, he must be wearing his gentle lead. It is not a muzzle. This gentle lead is designed to alert Sully he is on the job and he should be aware of his environment and the people in it. He still has total control of mouth, but the gentle lead allows him to be supervised without the tugging of a regular leash. Sully also has work gear provided from Service Dogs of Alabama. He wears a vest, which, like the gentle lead, indicates to Sully it is time to work. The plan is for Sully to be able to work for eight or ten years within the schools before retiring.
Students enjoy Sully bringing some laughter and joy into the classroom. Mrs. Walker takes Sully into different classes each day and lets him go to work. Just him gently laying his head on a student’s lap, helps make their day and transform their mood. Although most students have no problem with Sully being off leash in the classroom, Mrs. Walker always anonymously asks if everyone is comfortable before giving him the “Go work, Sully” command.
We as Boaz City Schools are beyond blessed to welcome Sully into our family and hope he continues to serve his purposes as a small beacon of light to our schools for many years to come.