Students at Winton Elementary learn valuable lessons from an emotional support dog

SPOKANE, Wash. — The students at Winton Elementary are learning trust, respect, and love from a pretty unique mascot.

At the ripe age of 2-years-old, Blue, a Berna-Doodle, spends his days with hundreds of kids who love, support, and take care of him. This isn’t a common practice, and the process wasn’t easy, but after a few years Erin Duncan got the green light to bring her dog to work, daily.

She works as a behavior support specialist, teaching social and emotional learning, and as you can imagine, this hypo-allergenic pup helps her tap into the emotions of some students who may not otherwise open up. She tells us that Blue helps the kids to have more transparent and honest conversations.

“They’re petting him and talking to him, and twirling his hair and the stories, and they talk and they share, and sometimes it’s really kind of cerebral,” said Duncan.

“The social, emotional, learning is such a big piece, I get to see these connections happen in front of me every day, when he’s with me and kids talk about like, ‘Oh, his hair looks like mine’ or ‘He’s big like me,'” said Duncan, “they make these connections about him and about themselves, and the goal is that those connections translate to their peers and to other adults in their lives, and the conversation develops and grows.”

The kids recognize what a special situation this is. Austin, a fourth grader at Winton told us, “Every time I’m feeling down, he would cheer me up.”

He’s got a pretty loyal friend, and Austin admits, “One of my best.” Cassie, a 5th-grader, agreed, saying, “He’s been just by my side.” Blue has an entire school full of mama bears and papa bears, looking out for him.

Her job has her moving throughout the building so Blue has the chance to visit plenty of classrooms, and students, throughout the course of his day. Like his peers, his favorite part of the day is, of course, recess. Taking care of so many kids is exhausting, so they prioritize rest and quiet time for Blue.

They have a goal to see this happen more frequently throughout the district and because this is such a new practice, they’re still figuring out what exactly it will look like and sound like. So far, everyone is gaining and growing from the warmth Blue brings to Winton Elementary School, daily.