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 the school in October 2019, but tabled the idea after the pandemic began.
While scrolling through Facebook in August, she saw a post from a woman trying to find a home for the goldendoodle puppy. “I saw her face, and I knew that she was supposed to be ours,” Goad said. “I literally went and got her the next day.”
She said it was important to get a puppy because she wanted the student body to watch her grow.
Wavely was born on June 17, 2020. At 5-and-a-half months old, she has a natural curiosity and loves to learn, fetch and receive belly rubs. She’s expected to weigh about 50 pounds as an adult.
In-person classes at THS resumed for the first time since mid-March just two days after Goad brought Wavely home.
“I knew in my heart more so than ever, we needed some joy and we needed something to boost everyone’s spirits here,” Goad said.
So far, Wavely has passed her beginning obedience class and the AKC Star Puppy Test. She’s being trained by Malia Parker and David Bundy at Awesome Dog Academy in Tupelo, and veterinarian Dr. Glenn Thomas of the Tupelo Small Animal Hospital is donating all the usual medical services for Wavely at no charge.
Advanced obedience training will begin after Christmas, after which Wavely will complete the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test and therapy title evaluation. She will take part in Comfort Creatures of North Mississippi’s “Love on a Leash” therapy training in the spring.
Goad expects Wavely to earn the title of therapy dog by May 2021.
“She is a very trainable dog, and she’s already shown the signs to be a really good therapy dog,” Goad said. “But she still has a lot of puppy in her that we’ve got to work through.”
In the meantime, Wavely will visit campus to get acclimated and begin interacting with students. When she starts working on campus full time, Goad imagines Wavely will be present in the mornings as students get off the bus or in the courtyard, and she’ll be available to visit classrooms and work one-on-one with students. Katie Schafer, ninth grade counselor at Tupelo High School, said even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, there was a tremendous need for students to receive emotional support. Now that there’s even uncertainty about what their lives will look like day-to-day, Waverly’s role is even more critical.
“This just provides a little bit of a comfort to them,” Schafer said. “I don’t know anybody that can’t look at a precious little dog and smile, so it’s something to kind of brighten their day.”
According to Schafer, Wavely can provide comfort for a child during individual sessions by giving them something to do with their hands, easing the tension they might have while talking through issues.
Goad said that as a special education teacher, a lot of children with whom her department works have behavioral issues. She doesn’t want Wavely to be used as a reward for positive behavior. Instead, she hopes the dog will help students get to the root of their problems.
“Sometimes the most unloveable kids need the most love, and I think a dog could be a bridge to that, in getting to the root of what’s hurting them so bad inside to cause them to act out,” Goad said.
Wavely can also help teach students about responsibility – whether they’re taking her for a walk or helping Goad feed her.
Goad stressed that interacting with Wavely will be voluntary and will never be forced upon any student.
But most of Tupelo High School’s students will likely be happy to meet her, and Wavely will certainly be excited to make new friends.