School gains new furry friend

Throughout the usual quiet atmosphere of the library, with pages turning and whispers, students can be heard playing and spending time with the new therapy dog, Pearl.

“She’s supposed to just make people happy,” librarian Casey Penner said. “When you dig deeper, research has shown that being around animals helps calm people and reduce their anxiety.”

Because Penner is Pearl’s owner, Pearl resides in the library with her.  They may also occasionally visit classes.

“I actually recently turned her loose in a classroom, and she just played with people or came and laid by me,” Penner said.

For a library aide, it is common to be around Pearl and see how she is with others.

“It’s awesome because she’s such a happy dog, but she’s still very calm, and she provides joy to many students,” senior Mary Maggard said.

Some students have gone as far as to even bring Pearl gifts.

“A lot of kids love her and bring her treats,” Maggard said. “Some students even like her so much, they even made her a little blanket.” 

Students will often go out of their way just to get some snuggle time with Pearl.

“A few students have come in here just to play with her for 20-25 minutes,” senior Grady Fox said. 

Pearl has not always met the requirements to be a therapy dog. After talking to principal Rick Rivera, Penner knew she 

“When I first got Pearl, I talked to Mr Rivera, and he said he was open to the idea,” Penner said. “However, Pearl was a very hyper puppy, and she needed time to mature.”

Growing up was not the only lesson Pearl had to learn. 

“She took the basic obedience class, which was pretty involved,” Penner said. “After finishing that, she took the advanced obedience class and then passed her test.”

Augusta High School’s therapy dog Pearl rests in librarian Casey Penner’s office. Pearl is three years old and Penner has owned her she was a puppy. (Photo by Hayden Blair )

After Pearl’s certification, Penner worked with Rivera, and eventually got Pearl approved with the school board.