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A Four-Legged Student

March 04, 2020
By Deb Daley

Mercy has a new student—and she has four legs and a fur coat. Eleanor, a Bullmastiff, joined the student body in late February. She is not a mascot, but a presence intended to leave a trail of smiles whenever she moves throughout the school.  

“The idea of having a school dog came up in conversation on a bus trip that faculty and staff took to an education workshop in Oklahoma. I had just adopted Eleanor from the Nebraska Humane Society, and her demeanor was great.  Everyone got excited about the idea and what a positive impact it would have on Mercy,” said owner Bethany Kowal ’02, science teacher.

Several schools in the Omaha area have dogs. Research show their presence benefits the school community by making the environment feel safer, more welcoming and less stressful.

Before Eleanor was allowed to come to school, Principal Kristi Walters Wessling ’88, communicated with parents to make sure they were amenable to the idea.

“We received several calls and emails from parents excited to meet Eleanor,” she said.

Prior to coming to school, Eleanor completed the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test. The CGC Test helps promote responsible behavior for dog owners, as well as teaches proper training for dogs to ensure they are well-mannered and easy-going around other dogs and people. The test is also a prerequisite for many dog therapy certifications. 

The reaction to the dog’s presence has been remarkable.

“I have heard students say after petting Eleanor, 'this is literally the best thing to happen to me today.' The teachers and students alike seem to really enjoy her. I think she helps facilitate connections among everyone,” Bethany said. 

Currently, Eleanor is accompanying Bethany to her classes, and a schedule is being developed for her to be with the counselors in the Media Center and in other classrooms.  

So, if you see a furry creature roaming the halls, don’t be startled. She’s meant to be there.  

Posted in Student News