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All work, all play
|Photo courtesy of Bexley Schools
|Eric Crane, a fourth-grade student at Maryland Elementary School, reads to Glazier, a K-9 Companion dog.
He's a counselor and safety supervisor. A companion, a partner in reading and even a model used in art class. And most importantly, he's a bridge to friendship.
Glazier has become an instant celebrity at Maryland Elementary in Bexley, greeting students as they enter the school's doors each day and sitting with them as they read him a book or learn their lessons.
The 3-year-old Golden Retriever-Labrador cross has nuzzled his way into the hearts of students and teachers alike as a K-9 companion - bringing together students who otherwise wouldn't interact, rewarding them for their achievements and serving as a friend to students when they need someone - or something - most.
"A lot of times you hear about what's wrong or what's negative about schools, but I think Glazier brings out the best in everyone and makes school a positive experience," said Erica Hecker, school counselor at Maryland Elementary School.
Glazier comes from K-9 Companions, an organization that raises service dogs until they are 18 months old, teaching them basic commands and other training. Some dogs then spend another six months to a year in advanced training where they learn 42 different commands.
Glazier, however, spent his puppy life in a prison learning his advanced training.
"That was kind of special because the prison has a program for their inmates for rehabilitation," Hecker said. "It's very strict. The inmates have to go through a training class themselves. Glazier got used to being around a lot of different kinds of people and noise."
As a service dog, Glazier was taught commands that would help him assist a human, such as learning how to turn off lights and open doors.
But in the schools, his roles vary.
"The commands we use with him are interactive commands like 'lap' to put his head on someone's lap or 'shake,'" Hecker said.
Glazier's presence in school isn't a distraction, like some may think, Hecker said. Instead, he helps students focus and calms them down when they are upset.
Take the little girl who was scared of animals but grew to love Glazier, or the boy who was afraid of fire drills. Given the responsibility of walking Glazier out of the building, the boy was able to focus on his task at hand rather than the fear of the situation.
"Glazier's work in our building has been absolutely impressive," Maryland Elementary School principal Jon Hood said. "He has become a valued friend to everyone in the building. His work with our special needs population has been particularly rewarding to see."
Glazier also works with students in the classroom, serving as a model for art class or getting his teeth brushed to show the students proper hygiene.
"Every day we find a new way to use him with students," Hecker said.
But it's not all work and no play for Glazier, who lives with Hood.
Each morning, Hood dresses Glazier in a blue vest and when it's time to leave, Glazier is at Hood's side, ready to get in the car. When they arrive at school, they start with a little play time in the gym.
"This is his favorite time of the day," Hood said. "We usually play fetch with a ball or toy. He loves running across the gym and then jumping onto the big mats."
Glazier then welcomes the students and is off to work, but at the end of the day, Hood makes time for a game of Frisbee or any of Glazier's other favorite activities.
"While he has the vest on he stays focused on the task at hand and has an expectation that he'll be heading off to the next assignment soon," Hood said. "When we go home and the vest comes off, he's all dog."
Other school districts have begun to take note of Bexley's successful K-9 program. After looking into the Bexley program, Grandview High School began a K-9 Companion program this past fall.
After giving a presentation at a recent Ohio counselor conference, Hecker came across several other counselors interested in knowing more.
"There are a lot of counselors who are very interested in using dogs as a counseling tool," she said.
But for Glazier, it's all in a day's work.
"He gives unconditional friendship to everyone," Hecker said. "He doesn't care if you're short or tall, young or old, girl or boy."
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