Virginia Beach elementary school has therapy dog join the team

Virginia Beach

Annie Baugher is the only human school counselor at North Landing, but her therapy dog Kevin is equally as important.
(Courtesy: North Landing Elementary)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — North Landing Elementary has a four-legged friend that roams the halls providing some much-needed smiles for students and staff.

The school has less than 450 students currently enrolled, according to the Virginia Department of Education, and only one school counselor, Annie Baugher. But now, her certified therapy dog Kevin has become part of the team and part of the North Landing family.

“Kevin is an invaluable member of the North Landing Elementary staff. The students and staff erupt in excitement when they see Kevin walking through the halls. He helps students in many ways, even as simply as providing a motivation to come to school or put a smile on a student’s face,” officials with the school division said in a statement released.

The school says he is there during tense situations to help break the ice and calm nerves while letting students feel comfortable with talking and sharing.

A common phrase among students and staff at the school is, “I just need to pet Kevin.”

Kevin is a 5-year-old standard poodle with a friendly demeanor that was quickly noticed by his owner. The process of becoming a therapy dog began during the pandemic while in quarantine.

Kevin underwent training a few times a week for about 10 weeks — which helped strengthen his skills while building a bond between him and Baugher.

Once the trainer at Einstein K-9 out of Virginia Beach felt the pair was ready, they began testing.

The test consisted of three observations of the handler with the prospective therapy dog in public settings such as Lowes, Home Depot, and pet stores. A 24 hour period was required between each observation.

Normally, one of the settings takes place at a medical facility, but due to the pandemic, the requirement was waived.

During the test, the observer watched his ability to follow commands and Baugher’s ability to direct and redirect him.

Kevin passed with flying colors and is now a certified therapy dog through Alliance of Therapy Dogs.

North Landing Elementary says the school “feels very fortunate to have access to such a wonderful resource and believes every school would benefit from having a furry friend like Kevin!​”

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