LeeLee The Service Dog

August 27, 2020

A fresh and fluffy face will greet students at Stephens Elementary School this year and provide an added layer of comfort to improve the children’s daily lives.

LeeLee the facility service dog is trained to sense anxiety, concern and behavior changes to ease the minds of students and teachers.

“She can help with social and emotional issues or just bring good vibes,” director of elementary schools Ellen Martin said. “She is precious and we’ve been wanting a service dog in the school system for several years.”

Teachers submitted applications to be the chosen handler and Stephens science, technology, engineering and math teacher Leanne Waldrop qualified to train with LeeLee the labradoodle for a week in Hope Hull. Waldrop and LeeLee stayed in a hotel for a week to practice basic commands and spent time training with Service Dog of Alabama in a school to get familiar with hallways and classrooms.

LeeLee has been training for this work since she was born so the week in Hope Hull was mainly for Waldrop and to establish that bond between her and the dog.

“The week of training was the week before spring break,” Martin said. “So on our way down on Friday for (training) graduation is when we got the announcement that the governor shut down schools.”

Therefore, LeeLee has not actually met any students yet, except for Waldrop’s three children, ages 4 and 6. LeeLee will live with Waldrop and get to be a family dog while at home. Waldrop will be her guardian until the current 3-year-old pup retires. Most service dogs retire after six to eight years.

“It’s going to be really interesting when school starts back to see what the kids have to say and how they react,” Martin said.

Martin submitted a request letter in the fall and sent in the application to Service Dogs of Alabama shortly after.

“The application was detailed and we had to describe the people we serve and how the service dog will improve their outcome,” Martin said. “One of the main reasons I think we were selected was based on our need for a service dog.”

The service dogs are trained to keep students calm, serve as a deterrent for bad behavior, act as a therapist for children not comfortable talking directly to an adult and many other situational responses.

“I’m excited for all the positive benefits our students will have with her,” Waldrop said. “She will be shared with the counselors and is trained to sense stress issues and go to children who need it.”

Alex City Schools paid $6,000 for LeeLee and is responsible for all vet costs, regular medication and crates for both Waldrop’s classroom and at her home. LeeLee wears a service dog vest and an Alexander City Schools employee tag as she is considered part of the staff.

“I am excited for the opportunity to provide the students a service dog,” Stephens principal Ivy Pike said. “We don’t know what they’ve experienced for the five months they’ve been out of school so this will add another emotional layer of support.”

Waldrop will be transitioning to all classrooms at Stephens throughout the day, so all the children will be introduced to LeeLee. 

“It also teaches children responsibility,” Waldrop said. “They can walk LeeLee, with supervision, and there will be rules and guidelines for students to follow during the school day when it comes to her.”

Students will get to greet LeeLee each morning as they enter school to start everyone off on an enthusiastic note. A letter will be sent home to parents of Stephens’ students before school starts to let them know LeeLee will be a part of their daily routines.

During the first three years, Waldrop and LeeLee have to attend Service Dogs of Alabama trainings twice a year and once a year after that.

“It’s a big deal and a very great responsibility to be a handler,” Martin said.

Alex City natives Ann Goree and Carol Lee were two driving forces behind Alex City receiving a service dog. Lee is on the Service Dogs of Alabama board and the two made it their mission to make this dream become a reality. They also hosted a fundraiser last fall that helped with the funding.

Martin hopes to get service dogs for Jim Pearson and Radney elementary schools in the near future as well.

“Anyone wanting to donate to that cause can do so with the Alexander City Schools Education Foundation,” Martin said.

  • Most Recent News

    Helping Vets And Pets

    December 4, 2020

    AUTHOR AND ILLUSTRATOR Phyllis Limbacher Tildes always had a soft spot for those in need, and when she saw a video of rescued shelter pets being trained to help veterans cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, she felt compelled to give back. This burning desire helped inspire her to create a project she calls “Art […]

    Read more

    Service Dog Community

    December 4, 2020

    No longer will emotional support animals be considered service animals. A service animal is defined only as “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.” That means “emotional support” peacocks, pigs and horses will no longer be able to fly. For Kelly […]

    Read more

    Health Wellness For Dogs

    December 4, 2020

    As humans, we’re increasingly taking care of our health and wellbeing in holistic ways – and now, it’s the same when it comes to our dog. Subsequently, a growing market of pet treatments, therapies and supplements are now available meaning our pampered pooches have never had it so good. “Dog owners consider their dogs as […]

    Read more

    Power Of Dogs

    December 4, 2020

    It’s been a difficult year for non-profit. Many rely on big gatherings and fundraisers to create the profit they need to keep the organization running. The same goes for Project 2 Heal, a Waxhaw non-profit, who works to raise puppies to become service animals. Project 2 Heal are believers in that a dig is a […]

    Read more

    Paws With A Cause

    December 4, 2020

     The Department of Transportation has ruled that airlines will no longer allow Emotional Support Animals on airplanes. Local assistance dog organization, Paws With A Cause, explains what this ruling means for them. Paws With A Cause, based in Wayland, custom-trains Assistance Dogs for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act defines an Assistance Dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Jax

    December 4, 2020

    After every home game, Chandler head football coach Rick Garretson meets his wife, Wendy, and his kids at the north end zone at Austin Field. It’s there he greets his family and takes the leash of his German shepherd, Jax, who is a certified therapy dog. The two then walk toward the team huddle where […]

    Read more

    Service Dog Training

    December 4, 2020

    Do you love dogs and want to do a bit of good for the world at the same time? Now’s your time to shine. Southeastern Guide Dogs a non-profit organization that trains dogs to assist veterans and those with disabilities, is looking for a few willing volunteers to raise puppies for 12-18 months. Here’s how […]

    Read more

    Raising Money For Service Dog

    December 4, 2020

    One Somerset family is expressing their gratitude for their local community, which has come together to help them make life better and safer for two of their children. Brothers Dylan, 13, and Chase, 12, are the sons of Jami Johnson. Both were diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum as toddlers. And while the family […]

    Read more

    Guide Dogs

    December 4, 2020

    A yellow Labrador retriever named Paul was born to be a Southeastern Guide Dogs superhero, but as fate would have it, that wasn’t to be. Barely out of puppyhood, the 30-month-old dog spent his formative months like every future guide dog, living for his first year or so with puppy raisers, and then heading back […]

    Read more

    Wavely The Therapy Dog

    December 4, 2020

    or students stressed about tough classes or feeling anxious during the COVID-19 pandemic, Tupelo High School’s new therapy dog in training – a goldendoodle named Wavely – will be there to help. Anne Marie Goad, a special education teacher and MET Chair at the high school, had the notion to get a therapy dog for […]

    Read more

    More Recent News