Four-legged friend joins Sippican School staff

Jun 11, 2024

MARION — Sippican Elementary School students will have a new friend to hang out with upon returning to school in the fall: a labrador retriever named Norman.

Norman will be partnered up with School Resource Officer Jon Tracy of the Marion Police Department.

“This is a great addition to our school,” said Acting Principal Doreen Lopes. “We’ve had a few comfort dogs visit our school over the course of the year and it changes the dynamic. Young children relate to animals in a way that is different from adults.”

Norman’s first day at school was Friday, June 7.

“The push was to try to get him into the building before the end of the school year,” said Tracy. “There are some students that are apprehensive about returning to school for the following year, so if they got to meet the dog and see that there is going to be a dog in the school next year, it might help with their anxiety about returning to school.”

Over the summer, Norman will receive training to help with his obedience, social skills, and response to unexpected stimuli.

Although Norman needs training, Tracy said that his litter was bred primarily to help in environments like schools.

Before joining the Marion Police Department, Norman had already spent time being temperament tested and hanging out in day cares and around college campuses.

“His first day was on Friday and he had no issues at all,” said Tracy. “He’s so chill with it.”

According to Tracy, Norman will be used in the fall to assist students who aren’t having the best of days.

“It's supposed to be a calming sense for the children, to regulate them and bring them back to better emotions,” he said.

Lopes said that other elementary schools with comfort dogs use rewards systems that allow students to spend time with dogs and noted that a similar system could be put in place at Sippican School.

After just a couple of days on the job, Norman is already the big dog on campus.

“Every student that I’ve walked by has already said ‘Can I come see your dog,’' said Tracy. “I don’t want it to become a distraction, but I think it's going to be a really good thing for the students next year — I can’t wait for that.”