Meet Ollie, the eight-month-old golden retriever provided by Notre Dame Federal Credit Union (Notre Dame FCU) serving his community as a therapy dog for the School City of Whiting! Ollie took a break from his busy workday to pay the team at Notre Dame FCU’s Lake County headquarters a visit.
Ms. Julie Pearson, principal at Nathan Hale Elementary School, initially floated the idea of a therapy dog before the COVID-19 pandemic. It was upon the return from remote classes that Superintendent Cynthia Scroggins felt a therapy dog could help students cope with the stress of returning to school. The School City of Whiting put together a written grant and Notre Dame FCU answered the bell, donating over $8,000 to cover adoption, training, and care for the new pup.
Ollie’s first day at Nathan Hale Elementary School was November 7, 2022, and he’s been growing into his role (and his body!) ever since. As his training progresses, Ollie will continue to provide comfort and support to students at Whiting Middle School and Whiting High School in addition to Nathan Hale Elementary.
Since training began in November, Ollie has progressed from short, one-on-one interactions with students and staff to small group interactions and classroom visits. He greets students and visitors with a wagging tail and a belly ready to be rubbed. He is a great listener, always willing to sit with students while they practice reading or share their successes, like moving up a reading level or meeting personal goals for the week. All visits are done in Ollie’s “office” with Ms. Pearson’s assistance and supervision.
“In the few months Ollie has been here, he has far exceeded my hopes and expectations for the impact he would have on our students and staff,” said Principal Pearson. “He has such a caring and loving disposition and just being around him has a calming effect. His presence in the buildings creates a positive learning environment while supporting the mental health and well-being of our school community.”
Ollie is still progressing through training, having completed his American Kennel Club S.T.A.R. Puppy Class in December and his Second Level Class in March. The School City of Whiting hopes to have his Canine Good Citizen certification before the 2023-2024 school year starts.
During the visit, Notre Dame FCU Chief Retail Officer and Northwest Indiana Market President John Wilkening committed to sponsoring two additional therapy dogs for the School City of Whiting, placing one in each school beginning with the 2023-2024 academic year.