Mollie Mae isn't your average dog. At 11-years-old, she represents Dogwood Elementary as a best friend to many of the students roaming the halls. Whether they need emotional support on a rough day or just a friendly face to say hi to, Mollie Mae is there for them.
Mollie Mae isn’t your average dog. At 11-years-old, she represents Dogwood Elementary as a best friend to many of the students roaming the halls. Whether they need emotional support on a rough day or just a friendly face to say hi to, Mollie Mae is there for them.
Rebecca Caufield, Dogwood Social Worker, lives with Mollie and four years ago, decided to bring her therapy dog talents to the attention of Dogwood staff. She offered to update Mollie’s therapy license in order to let her serve the Dogwood students. The plan was accepted and Mollie has been working for four years.
In order to maintain ownership, Caufield pays for all needs for Mollie. She lives on a farm with the family, giving her a good balance between therapy help and freely roaming the fields. Mollie previously worked for a family of little people and when they had to move, Caufield decided to take her into her ownership and give her a new home.
“The only difference between Mollie and a regular dog is that she might be pampered more,” Caufield said. “We treat her like our children.”
Now, alongside the guidance of Caufield, Mollie works with Dogwood students and provides emotional support. A number of obstacles had to be figured out before fully implementing Mollie into the school, including allergy conditions for certain students and insurance. Caufiled says they have taken the steps to ready her 100% before bringing her into contact with students, including multiple years fecal samples, constant grooming and updated shots at all times.
Mollie’s company is used in a number of ways throughout the building. Students are free to stop in and pet her and Mollie is also used as a reward for good behavior. However, Mollie is also used to calm down students having an emotional fit and is also used as a buffer to allow students to speak freely about what is bothering them. This can range from smaller issue to larger, swelling issues that may stem from their homes.
In order to break down the barrier of speech to Mollie, Caufield has adapted a system where students are asked to write Mollie a letter. Caufield says these letters help students to open up and tell Mollie things that they may be too scared to tell to an adult. Then, in later counseling sessions, Caufield can use this information to better serve student problems.
“We always address all of the letters Mollie receives and are sure to write back for her,” Caufield said. “Sometimes, these letters can be pretty severe.”
On a lighter note, Mollie also serves as a playful inclusion to the school. Students are occasionally asked to read to Mollie to aid in reading development and she also makes the occasional visit to school functions, per parents approval. Mollie is also used in cases of separation anxiety, when a young student may get upset when their parents leave for the day.
Mollie has become a mainstay at the school, but she is growing to an old age. At 11-years-old, she will eventually need a successor to take her place. Caufield is already on the job in this regard.
Caufield has been on a waiting list for over three years for a new puppy that will take Mollie’s place in a number of years. The new puppy will be just 18-months-old and will be trained in the same ways as Mollie. Caufield has requested another labrador retriever, needing the next in line to also have coarse hair due to living on a farm.
Dogwood Elementary Principal Lucinda Varner says that Mollie has been critical in helping with transitions from home to school. She says that Mollie provides a nonthreatening personality that kids latch onto easily.
“The kids absolutely love Mollie. She’s made a big difference,” Varner said.
Moving forward with Mollie, Caufield wants to implement her into more areas of the campus. She says that she wants Mollie to become more of a reward when tending to emotionally challenged students throughout the R-III district to help show them better ways of coping with their feelings.
“The students know her and love her, we want her to be as accessible as possible for them,” Caufield said.