If teachers and students at T.J. Austin Elementary School are having a ruff day, they’re in luck because the school has found the Ticket to happiness.
Ticket, a 4-year-old Labrador, spent most of her life as a duck dog, but T.J. Austin Counselor Dana Smith said she just liked people more. So when Smith began kicking around the idea of bringing on a therapy dog, Pastor Travis Wright had just the pup.
“I’ve always loved dogs, they’ve always been therapy for me,” Smith said. “I had a rough childhood and that would be where I would go, my dog.”
A bit of extra training and a few certifications later, and Ticket was ready to meet the students.
Ticket once spent her days in a kennel, but now she has her very own miniature office set up inside Smith’s. She gets all of the pets, pats and belly scratches her heart desires.
“She’s living it up,” Smith said.
Principal Brandy Holland said seeing Ticket melts the frowns of teachers and students alike.
“When they come in and see the dog is here, everyone is all smiles,” Holland said.
Ticket helps Smith with a wide array of tasks, from helping others decompress, to consoling them and even helping children build confidence while reading to her.
“She’s helping the kids with emotional states, also kids that are reluctant to read, they can read to her and that helps them build confidence,” Smith said. “It just builds a lot of confidence; her love is so unconditional.”
Ticket is also helping students who are having trouble communicating.
“We had a little boy come in the other day, and he very seldom smiles for us,” Smith said. “She really helps them decompress quicker, and they really enjoy. Most of them will ask to see her.”
Smith said she also had a teacher having a hard day come in and just ask to sit with Ticket for a few minutes, leaving reinvigorated and in a better mood.
At the school’s recent literacy night, the biggest hit was Ticket’s table, where parents and families came and met Ticket.
“There were a lot of kids who hadn’t turned in their forms, but once they saw the dog they got them in quick,” Holland said.
Smith and Holland said that after just two weeks they’re already seeing results. They hope to see other schools in the area bring in therapy dogs of their own, to provide students and staff with experiences that can’t be measured by a test.