Meet Abby, the new Old Rochester Regional support dog

Apr 27, 2021

Most dogs don’t have jobs, let alone a job before their first birthday.

But Abby the mini goldendoodle — who turns one year old on May 24 — has already started her duties as the support dog at Old Rochester Regional High School.

School social worker and Abby’s owner Michelle Wright said that training a dog to work in this field was something she’d been thinking about for a while — which is partly why she chose a hypoallergenic pup.

Therapy dogs are a soothing presence for stressed-out kids or those feeling anxious, Wright explained. “The physiological response that people have to dogs, they’re usually calming.”

She noted that having a support dog at school could also “help kids ease back to in-person learning.”

“I definitely thought that with the pandemic, it would give the kids something to look forward to,” Wright added.

With the full return to school on April 27, Abby will be at ORR just three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays — to start, according to Wright.

The pup is also taking obedience classes through the Plymouth County Canine Club, and works under her owner’s counseling license for insurance purposes.

“She enjoys the energy of doing the classes, and all the routines that they walk through,” noted Wright. “It really gives her mental energy, a positive outlet.”

During training, the dogs have to learn to ignore each other, as well as sit and lie down for a long time, along with other skills.

Wright has two other dogs, although she said Abby is the first one she’s done formal training with. “It’s a great bonding experience,” she said.

And Abby is already doing her job supporting students.

Although she has only been inside the building for a few days, the pup has already met with about 25-30 students so far, according to Wright.

On Monday, she said, “Somebody was not wanting to participate in gym class, and was having a hard time.”

But after sitting with Abby and giving her pats and treats, she said, the student was “able to return back to the gym class. So that was really good.”

“Most of the time she’ll want belly rubs from them, that’s her favorite thing,” Wright noted with a laugh. “And then she really likes having her ears scratched too.”

“The kids have really enjoyed her so far,” she added. “She was just lying on a student’s feet taking a nap.”