meet rhodie, John jay's therapy dog

she brings students together

“Is today the last day that she’s going to be here?” The student asking was one of a half dozen gathered around the calm and cuddly Bernese Mountain Dog receiving visitors outside of the art classrooms in between periods. “She’s going to be here every day!” said art teacher Kendra Collins. “She’s John Jay’s new therapy dog!”

Rhodie, a three-year-old certified therapy dog, joined the John Jay Middle School community on March 24, and has been super busy being adored. In addition to offering friendly companionship to all students, she’s on special assignment.

“Rhodie will work within our school community to provide emotional support to students experiencing anxiety, stress or other emotional challenges,” said Principal Jeff Swiatowicz in his letter to middle school families. 

Rhodie brings feelings of well-being to the school community

While Collins worked with Katonah-Lewisboro Schools for a year to have Rhodie approved as the middle school’s therapy dog, it’s been her goal since day one.

“I purposefully picked her to be a therapy dog,” said Collins. “Even as an eight-week-old puppy, she was calm, confident and drawn to people. She was comfortable being handled. Rhodie enjoys making people happy and seems to know to check in on those who need her.”

Rhodie holds certifications through the American Kennel Club (AKC) as a Canine Good Citizen, an AKC Community Citizen, and is Farm Dog Certified. She is registered through Pet Partners to provide emotional support and comfort to individuals in need.

Collins’ classroom is Rhodie’s home base. The dog's large crate fits neatly under Collins’ desk, her water bowl is tucked under the table by the window and students already know that there’s a covered mug of dog treats on top of their teacher’s desk. Rhodie will be on leash while students get used to her; when everyone is comfortable with her presence, Rhodie will be able to walk freely in Collins’ classroom. She’ll be a morning greeter and is also available for classroom visits. “Rhodie can sit and listen to students read, share their work, learn some math and work on language acquisition—both with our English as a New Language students and in world language classes,” said Collins. 

Beyond being the eighth-grade art teacher, Collins is the Social Emotional Learning and Equity Curriculum Integration Leader for the middle school. She’s excited about the feelings of well-being that Rhodie will bring to the whole school community. “Rhodie is already very, very happy at John Jay Middle School.”