CANTON — Blue Hills Regional Technical Schools’ newest four-legged member can be found greeting students in the morning or soaking in the sun when not lending a helping paw to those in need of comfort throughout the school day.
Enzo the Comfort Dog, Superintendent Jill Rossetti’s 1-year-old black Labradoodle, assisted Blue Hills Regional administrators in welcoming students back to school this year. With a nose for helping out others and providing care for those in need, Enzo’s primary role within the school community is to improve the day-to-day experiences of students, staff and those who visit Blue Hills Regional Technical School.
Throughout the school day, Enzo helps to support the educational, social and emotional needs of students with classroom visits and interactions in the hallways. Enzo can help assist with de-escalation of students in need of emotional resources or those experiencing behavioral problems, provide comfort to those who may be experiencing or have experienced trauma and more.
“The comfort we find in animals like Enzo is a comfort that cannot be replicated with simple human interaction,” Social Studies Instructor Richard Cleggett said. “Enzo provides an opportunity for staff and students to bring themselves some momentary peace which can be much needed for many right now.”
A team of 34 Blue Hills Regional educators and staff take turns working with Enzo and bringing him to different areas of the school. To date, Enzo has visited numerous classes in the school and has sat in on lessons. Enzo visited Instructor Kathleen Dowd’s classroom while her Health Assisting students were working on researching comfort animals. During this class, they discussed the benefits and positive impacts that comfort animals have and what it means to have Enzo in the school. Blue Hills’ Culinary Arts students have even baked dog treats for Enzo this year.
“He’s a very emotionally supportive dog. Whenever he shows up, he does what his name tag says. He brings us comfort and emotional support,” said senior Engineering Technology student Sean Bernyk.
While in school, Enzo is on his leash at all times and interactions between him and the school community are all voluntary. Those who don’t want to interact with Enzo don’t have to, but to date, district leaders have found that many people who previously didn’t like dogs or were scared of them have overcome those feelings after interacting with him.
“Enzo is such a unique dog and brings so much joy and laughter to Blue Hills,” Special Services Secretary Tracey Monti said. “I had a fear of dogs and Enzo has helped me overcome that fear! He is a great pup and I am grateful for the opportunity to spend my breaks with him. When the few minutes of time we spend together ends, I feel so much calmer and refreshed and ready to resume my busy workday.”
English Instructor Eileen Dailey added, “I’m not a super and warm fuzzy dog lover and I’m a bit of an eye-roller when it comes to pet therapy. However, Enzo totally won me over. I had just gotten off the phone in my back office and was a bit annoyed at the time. There were two other people in my classroom when Ms. Magnani and Ms. Lovell walked in with Enzo. He made a beeline toward me. The next thing you know I’m giving him his treat for sitting and giving a paw. It was pretty amazing. I’m sold!”
Enzo is naturally calm, friendly and affectionate to most strangers. He is trained in basic obedience and earned his Urban Canine Good Citizen ribbon last week on Monday, Sept. 27. Enzo is also pursuing Therapy Dog Training at this time. Once he passes another test, he will officially become a certified therapy dog.
“I am thrilled to have this unique opportunity that allows me to bring Enzo to school and I thank our community for being so welcoming and open to the idea of Enzo,” Superintendent Rossetti said. “I am confident that this will be a positive experience for everyone, and I look forward to the benefits the students will get from having him here and seeing this program grow.”
In recent years, there has been an increase in school districts utilizing comfort dogs. Comfort dogs have been used to help improve students’ social interactions and relationships with peers, expand their verbal and non-verbal communication, teach life skills, decrease verbal outbursts, increase interest in school activities with peers, and decrease stress and dysregulation within the school environment.
Superintendent Rossetti introduced the idea of a comfort dog at Blue Hills Regional Technical School after researching the benefits they have on school communities, and last spring the School Committee voted to allow Enzo to come to school for the 2021-22 school year.