Dalton Stufflebean poses for a photo with Cameron R-1 School District's newest staff member Odie.

New special needs dog makes the rounds at Cameron schools

The Cameron R-1 School District welcomed its newest staff member Odie, a special needs dog, who began working with students Monday.

Following more than 10 months of training, as well as a few weeks getting used to his new surroundings in Cameron, Odie began his first week of duty working with teens in the CHS special education department.

“It’s a great asset, not just for our building but some of the other buildings. He’s a trained facility dog and we’re able to take him around with us to classes,” said CHS special education teacher Jeff White. “Especially with some of the cancellations we had last year, and the long time off, social and emotional learning is big for our kids. Being able to have that dog gives them peace and comfort. He’s trained that if a kid is having a rough time he can go over and comfort that student … It just puts everybody in a good mood having a dog running around.”

Odie comes to Cameron R-1 School District by way of the Operation Schoolhouse Program through Warrior’s Best Friend Foundation - a not-for-profit group who rescues strays in order to train them to comfort veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, sexual assault and a variety of other conditions effecting America’s servicemen and women. Warrior’s Best Friend recently began training service dogs for area schools with 13 commands ranging from grief support to deep compression therapy to comfort children along the autistic spectrum during a period of high discomfort. 

Odie is the third dog adopted out through the program. A William Jewell College research study of the performance of the previous to special needs dogs provided to the Liberty School District found improvement in student reading skills, cognitive skills for children with autism and attendance.

“Mary Crawford (Cameron R-1 School District Special Education Director) for her part, but she did a wonderful job of quickly convincing the District to approve the acquisition of Odie,” said Joe Jeffers, executive director and founder of Warrior’s Best Friend Foundation.  “She has a very forward-thinking view.  She understood the immense benefits that Odie could provide challenged students, and championed the program even in light of the difficulties that the pandemic crisis has had on school administration’s decision making.”

With special education students restricted from their job training program, CHS special needs students will oversee scheduling and transporting Odie. 

“He’s kind of like a confidant - someone who is going to be there for you,” said Laura Janovec, Cameron Middle School special education teacher. “… He’s kind of like a security blanket. He’s literally going to be a security for these kids to have a minute to relax. He’s not going to judge them. He’ll let them talk to him, pet him and take a minute to gather their thoughts.”


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