AnnaDailey & AnnaKidder
Surprise Day has brought the joy of dogs in recent years, but now students can see a dog no matter what day it is. Last year, English teacher Mrs. Alee Cotton’s therapy dog, Tucker, joined the halls of Marian. Due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, Tucker was unable to return during the first semester of this school year.
“At the start of the school year, we knew less about COVID-19. Since then, it has become clear that the virus is very unlikely to pass from one person to another on porous surfaces like dog hair,” Cotton said. At the beginning of February, Tucker returned to Marian and saw students again.
“I really enjoy having him back,” senior Nicole Loeffler said. “Even just walking past Mrs. Cotton’s door in the morning, I see him and he just brings happiness to the classroom.” Loeffler is in Cotton’s homeroom and Honors World Literature class, so she gets to see Tucker quite often. “Whenever I’m having a bad day, and I go home to see my dog, it instantly gets better. It’s no different with Tucker.”
Therapy dogs go through special training to provide comfort, support and affection to human counterparts. As he roams the classroom, sits by Cotton and sleeps in his bed, Tucker accomplishes all these things for students. “Throughout the class, he walks around and checks on the students and interacts with them. He’s the perfect therapy dog and knows how to interact with students without distracting them,” junior Alyssa Carthart said.
“Tucker definitely makes an impact on students,” Cotton said. “He thinks the world of everyone he interacts with. Is it possible to pet a dog and not smile? I don’t think it is.”
Loeffler has noticed Tucker’s positive impact on students. “I see people who are excited to walk in and see him,” Loeffler said. “He just brings an air of excitement and happiness to all of the classes.”
Therapy dogs aren’t very common among the students at Marian. According to the Network Survey, none of the 94 students who responded own a therapy dog. Tucker is not only acting as a comfort in the classroom, but as a learning opportunity for students who may be interested in having or learning more about a therapy dog.
“Before meeting Tucker, I didn’t know anything about therapy dogs,” senior Lea Bushey said. She said she would now look into having one in the future. “Tucker and Mrs. Cotton share such a special bond which has proven to be very impressive and admirable,” Bushey said.
Cotton fostered Tucker and his sister in 2016. “We fell in love with him then, and he’s been with us ever since,” Cotton said. Tucker loves fetch, tug, flyball, sleeping and eating Cheerios dropped by Cotton’s 10-month-old son, Gavin. “Tucker is well trained, but like all dogs, he can be a bit of an opportunist.” Tucker has not broken into anyone’s lunches, but he did catch a student eating in class. “Tucker instantly smelled whatever she was trying to eat,” Cotton said. “He trotted right over, sat down politely and looked up expectantly, hoping that she’d share.”
For now, Tucker will only be able to see students in Cotton’s classroom. This is to ensure Tucker doesn’t get overwhelmed and to properly maintain social distancing. However, this doesn’t mean that if you aren’t one of Cotton’s students you will never get to see him. Cotton said, “When the weather warms up, I plan to be outside occasionally before school so that everyone gets a chance to meet Tucker.”