Liberty schools staff addition is making big impact

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LIBERTY, Ohio (WKBN) – For nearly a year now, the Liberty School District has had a unique member on its staff. She brings a whole new meaning to the term “teacher’s pet.”

Her name is Pawss, and she’s the school therapy dog. The one-year-old Standard Poodle joined the district staff in February and has changed everyone’s attitude and builds confidence.

The students visit Pawss each day. Whether it’s just a quick hello or a few minutes to relieve stress, Pawss is there.

“Not even for the kids but for teachers as well. It just uplifts their mood. If they’re having a bad day and they see Pawss, it’s just perfect,” said Kaitlin Tofilski, teacher.

Kristie Sallee is the school guidance counselor and Pawss’ owner. The idea for getting a school therapy dog came to her when she heard about the concept at a conference. After doing some research and getting support from school administrators, Pawss starting training, passed her exam, and then made her debut on February 6.

“The joy, the smiles, just the pure excitement was just amazing,” Sallee said.

Pawss got her name from the acronym the school uses to focus on positive attitudes and behavior, but she does more than just create smiles.

“Our kids read to her, and it encourages the love for reading and really builds their self-confidence,” Tofilski said.

Sallee said the dog has a calming effect on students who are having a bad day or are just sad or mad about something.

“She serves a purpose with everyone in a different way. She has amazed me from the beginning. It definitely is her destiny,” Sallee said.

Seventh-grader Zakree Stevens makes sure to visit Pawss every day. He says she is gentle, loving and a patient.

“Like if you need to talk to her, she’ll listen,” Stevens said.

Sallee said Pawss has been to other districts, too. Earlier this year another school went through a tragedy, so Pawss was called to help comfort those students. Sallee also says districts interested in getting their own therapy dog have called her to learn about the process.

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