When students are having a rough day, they go to the school counselor. And now at one middle school, the counselors are equipped with a four-legged assistant.
There's a new face at Rocky Mountain Middle School. It belongs to Annie the dog.
Attendance Secretary Laurel Trimble says, "I did a lot of research on therapy dogs and I thought what better way to give back than to give the students a therapy dog, and hopefully open the doors for other schools for therapy dogs."
It's only been a couple months since the district approved the idea, but students are already benefiting.
Eighth Grader Thayne Devereaux says, "It's hard to explain. Kind of, you feel like your spirit lifts up a little bit."
Annie visits students, like Devereaux, in the hall and also in the counseling offices.
School Counselor Nikie Bone says, "We just have so many different kinds of anxiety, stress, sometimes even trauma that kiddos come in with. And so, Annie has just been a blessing. They can come in and just relate with her in just a few minutes."
Students can relate to Annie as she's been through months of training to recognize different emotional cues, and for good reason.
Director of Idaho K9 Academy Coby Voronovich says, "They have to be trained specifically to identify specific behaviors, and indicate on them [the students], and try to break the loop that they're in so that we can calm them down quicker. So we can get them back to class sooner."
Eighth Grader Soleina Bess says, "Well, sometimes you have a hard life at home, or maybe if your friends are mean to you, or you just need a break from your life, you can just come and she'll just comfort you and just love you."
Annie is able to comfort students, at times, in half the time it would normally take. She can do this because she recognizes signs of distress. That skill isn't cheap to learn, but one employee is gifting Annie's services to the school.
Laurel Trimble says, "It's worth it to me because it's giving back to the school. And hopefully, it's giving back for years to come.
Trimble says she hopes other schools see the benefit of having a therapy dog and follow in Rocky Mountain Middle School's steps.