Pine Level Elementary Welcomes New Facility Dog, Gunner, the Black Lab
Pine Level Elementary hired a new employee this month, and he is furry, walks on four legs, and is already a favorite with students.
The school welcomed its second facility dog, Gunner, at the beginning of May. His mom, Maggie, has already been serving the emotional needs of the school for two years. The two are trained to detect stress and anxiety in students.
“One time whenever I was upset, he came over there, let me pet him, and then he just laid down,” Pine Level student, Averie Studdard, said
These pups are different than service dogs because they are not assigned to one person but a whole school. Employees of the school went through training to be their handlers. The handlers say Maggie and Gunner walk the halls with pride because they know when they’re at the school, they’re there to work.
“When she’s at the house, she’s just a dog,” Maggie’s handler, Joshua Mccullers, said. “You take care of her, love her, spoil her, and when you put that vest on them, their whole demeanor just changes. They know it’s time to go to work and it’s time to help people.”
Pine Level Elementary is the only school in Autauga County to have not just one facility dog, but two. This has been helpful during 2020-2021 school year.
“We have a lot of students especially this year during COVID that have come to us anxious, nervous, with a lot of stress, more than we have ever seen in the past,” principal of Pine Level Elementary Christen Harry said. “Gunner and Maggie help bring comfort to them.”
The two dogs were both trained and placed in the school through the Service Dogs of Alabama. Harry said they have seen more participation with students since hiring Gunner and Maggie.