Creating Smiles: Christine and Assistance Dog Jonesy
Christine never stops smiling when she talks about her partner, Assistance Dog for the Classroom Jonesy. Which is fitting, as she says “he creates smiles.”
Christine is an elementary school counselor at Mill Pond School in Westborough, MA. Jonesy joined her on her birthday in October, 2021, and she says he’s not only the best birthday gift she’s ever gotten, “he’s just the BEST.”
Jonesy has a way of generating smiles, laughter, and connections that make our school an even kinder, happier place to learn,” Christine says. The team begins each day by welcoming Christine’s 300 students as they arrive at school. He loves to be patted hello or just waved at. Christine says she’ll often notice that a student who may have been having a tough morning will greet Jonesy and blossom into smiles.
Christine says he’s made a tremendous impact on her students. During the day, an upset child can often be calmed by a quick walk with Jonesy and Christine or just a warm doggy hug. “We take a few minutes with Jonesy, practice some coping strategies and then the child is ready to learn again,” explains Christine. Children who struggle with reading find a nonjudgmental listener in Jonesy and their confidence grows. Suddenly they clamor for the opportunity to do something they thought was extremely challenging.
It’s not uncommon for students to arrive in Christine’s office in tears. And then Jonesy gets to show off a little. “When Jonesy brings you tissues when you’re crying,” Christine laughs, “you don’t need the tissues anymore!”
Every area of her students’ wellbeing has flourished, thanks to Jonesy. By calming and loving them, he helps children find the right mental state for learning. Jonesy both inspires and extends compassion and empathy.
But it isn’t only their emotional and academic lives that are affected. He encourages physical activity with fun on the playground and when kids help Christine walk him. When they play with him or tell each other how much they love dogs, he helps them build new friendships. “For some reluctant students, Jonesy is a key factor in helping them feel comfortable to come to school,” Christine says softly. As she prepared for this new school year, she heard from students who told her they were anxious about new teachers and new classrooms but they couldn’t wait to see Jonesy.
It’s not just the students who lean on Jonesy for support. Teachers frequently visit Christine’s office after school, asking “Can I have some Jonesy time?” Christine points out that teachers have long days and hard jobs—“they care so much and go out of their way to meet their students’ needs.” Jonesy seems to understand this and is always eager to offer his support. Jonesy’s impact has been just as important for them.
Jonesy and Christine end each day as they began it, warmly wishing each child goodbye. Jonesy is off duty now. “I’m so lucky I get to take him home,” Christine says. “He’s a beloved part of the family when he’s not working. And every morning, he’s eager to get back to school for another day of creating smiles.