United counselor wants to bring her dog to school

United High School guidance counselor Samantha Muniz is pictured with Rocco, a 1-year-old Newfoundland therapy dog she plans to provide the school. (Submitted photo)

HANOVERTON — United Local schools could soon have a furry friend to help with education.

High school guidance counselor Samantha Muniz Wednesday night requested permission from the board to bring her dog, Rocco, to school for use as a therapy pet for students and staff.

Rocco is a 115-pound, 1-year-old Newfoundland who has been trained since two months old as a therapy dog. Muniz said he recently excelled at a 13-step test for certification and currently volunteers at Crandall Medical Center at Copeland Oaks in Sebring and visits community events.

According to Muniz, as a therapy dog, Rocco can fit into the school day for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. They can work with him one-on-one or in a group to increase their concentration and focus on their teachers and school work. He can also be used as incentive for good school work and behavior.

“One thing about dogs is they offer unconditional love, and that is perfect for students going through times of grief or sadness,” Muniz explained.

Muniz said Rocco will remain with her throughout the day and be available to interact with students and staff as needed. If he can’t go somewhere with her, he will remain in her office, needing little supervision from the secretary. For students with allergies or a fear of dogs, a plan can be developed with their teacher, Muniz said.

Rocco only needs quick breaks every three or four hours, she added. He is fully covered under her homeowners insurance and is approved by the district’s insurer.

The school board did not act on the request Wednesday night. Schools Superintendent Lance Hostetler said it will likely be discussed at the November meeting.