The story of Archie: How one good boy helps a whole community

Caption: Archie enjoying a good read in the library. He’s been helping out around Franklin for five human years, or around forty dog years! Photo by Sandra Childs.

For some students at Franklin, life can get pretty ruff. With an increasing number of students reporting anxiety struggles, it’s clear that the student body might need a hand (or a paw). Meet Archie, the school’s therapy dog. You may have seen him  in passing, roaming the halls with a companion and a smile on his snout. His adorable labradoodle face might be captivating, but Archie is much more to Franklin than meets the eye.

“Archie is everyone’s little dose of happiness,” says Dana Miller, French teacher at Franklin and caretaker of Archie. This is Archie’s fifth year at the school. “Our former principal, Ms. Valder, knew that I had him and that I took him to a care facility on weekends. She wanted me to bring [him] to a class that our school psychologists were organizing for students who are dealing with increasing amounts of anxiety,” says Miller. “That led him to work with other groups in our school, such as the Life Skills class.”

Archie is certified through Pet Partners, an organization that brings together animals and people in need to “improve human health and well-being through the human-animal bond,” according to their website. His certification falls under the category of Animal-Assisted Interventions, which aims to introduce animals to health and education environments “for the purpose of therapeutic gains and improved health and wellness.” When Archie was asked about what it was like being a part of such a big project, he gave the microphone a few earnest sniffs and then laid his head back down.

Students in Jennifer Steinmetz’ class have felt Archie’s love firsthand. Steinmetz teaches the Vocational Skills class for Franklin’s Special Education students, which helps prepare them for the workforce. “[The] class teaches students about the skills needed to get and hold a job. Students practice and learn vocational skills by working various school based and community based jobs,” Steinmetz explains. Archie plays a crucial role in her classroom. Students who are looking to work with animals get to walk and practice handling Archie on A-days. In addition to this, Archie is always there to act as a general-purpose friend. “Archie is available to anyone who feels like they could use a cozy cuddle or walk with a furry friend,” says Steinmetz. “[He] provides students with a type of unconditional love and sense of support that students don’t always feel from humans.”

Archie is a first-generation labradoodle, which means he’s exactly half labrador (his mom) and half poodle (his dad). In Miller’s words, “He’s really just a fancy mutt!” She’s had him since he was ten weeks old, buying the pup from a breeder in Silverton, Oregon years ago. It would seem she got quite the deal. “He has always been sweet and calm. People always asked how I trained him… I really didn’t do anything,” Miller notes. “He came that way!”

It’s clear that Archie’s contributions to the Franklin community go far beyond his fluffy face and sprightly tail. For the past five years, Archie has lent a much needed paw to Franklin’s students and staff alike. Through the school’s bustling halls and ever-changing atmosphere, one thing remains certain: Archie is a very good boy.

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