Therapy dog becomes trusted friend at Medina schools

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 March 2013 at 12:00 am
Humphrey, Therapy Dog

Photo by Tom Rivers – Wendi Pencille, owner and handler of Humphrey, poses with the dog at the Medina school administration office. Humphrey has been visiting classrooms for the past 18 months.

MEDINA – When the 125-pound Landseer Newfoundland dog debuted at Medina Central School about 18 months ago, Kelly Linnan admitted he was a skeptic the dog would be a good fit with elementary students.

But Humphrey, a trained therapy dog, has made Linnan, a school counselor, a devoted fan.

“It is amazing what has occurred with this program,” Linnan told the Board of Education on March 12. “He gives unconditional, positive regard.”

Humphrey attended the BOE meeting and seemed happy to lounge on the carpet by his owner and handler Wendi Pencille, a member of the BOE.

Pencille brings the dog to school for about three hours every Thursday. He gets excited when Pencille pulls out his red bandana, which he wears around his neck, signifying he’s a trained therapy dog.

“He’s a trusted friend to the kids,” Pencille said. “There’s an emotional comfort.”

Some of the students will sit down and read a book to Humphrey. Others will snuggle up beside him.

“He loves the attention,” Pencille said. “He thinks he’s at the spa.”

Pencille, a wildlife rehabilitator, took classes with Humphrey at Ebbtide Kennels in Holley to become a trained therapy dog team. She is working to have three other dogs – a Saint Bernard, a German Shepherd, and another Landseer – trained as therapy dogs. Humphrey also is gaining certification for disaster relief.

Pencille volunteers when she brings Humphrey into the school. She sees the impact the dog has on the students.

“It’s very comforting for the kids,” she said. “A lot of kids have high stresses at home and school.”