Palo’s youngest addition at 5½ months, and only administrator with four fuzzy paws and a wagging tail, facility dog Dood the Panther is making his big debut welcoming students back to in-person learning.
Some may have already seen him in the halls, classrooms, counselor’s offices, or even on his Instagram account (@dood_the_panther). However, some students may be wondering what Dood is doing at Palo. What is his job, and where did he come from? Why is he here, now, after a pandemic?
Dood’s origins begin with Palo Verde’s assistant principal Mrs. Jessica Lovell, who was inspired by her cousin talking about how Faith Lutheran High School has a dog that works in the counselor’s office.
“I also have a background,” said Mrs. Lovell, “I was actually a middle school counselor before I was [an] administrator and I really relate to… student’s mental health and wellbeing, so I did some research.”
She visited the dog at Faith Lutheran, talked with its owner, and talked to various other facility dog owners at Las Vegas schools.
“I just thought [a dog] would be something super neat to bring to Palo, especially coming back from a pandemic and all this craziness,” she said.
So, after finding a breeder who had experience with facility dogs, Mrs. Lovell worked with her to find a trainer and get the best dog for the job, which, after six to seven months, was Dood.
“Dood is actually my dog,” said Mrs. Lovell. “I own him and then I… rent him out to the school… for his services.”
Speaking of Dood’s services, his ultimate goal is to work with Palo’s counselors and spread joy to students and staff.
“If a kid comes in [to the counselor’s office] that’s struggling, or having a bad day, or reluctant to talk… they can have Dood come in, and the student can sit with them and pet the dog and relax or calm down,” Mrs. Lovell said. “We have quite a few kids with anxiety or different things like that, so I’d like to see him helping those students cope and be able to open up to their counselors.”
Dood’s daily routine, which, after eating breakfast and spending time outside in his favorite planter, involves plenty of greetings and socializing at Palo.
“Now that the kids are back, it’s awesome because [Dood] gets to wait, go out front in the morning and greet all of the kids for a good thirty minutes. We walk around to the classrooms so he gets to say hi to kids, and then he chills up in the office,” Mrs. Lovell said. “Then we wait until the passing period, and we do the whole thing again.”
After that, he spends most of his afternoon asleep to recuperate. Once he wakes up, he chews on chew toys until heading back home at three, where he lets out his energy, has dinner, and goes to bed.
“He works four days a week… he has Fridays off, and so right now we’re trying Monday through Thursday,” Mrs. Lovell said. “Once he gets a little bit older, he might be able to handle five days a week, but even four days a week for a puppy is a lot right now.”
Dood’s personal life also has some interesting trivia. His name comes from a combination of the word “dude” and his breed being a goldendoodle. Thus, “Dood” was born.
Dood has two sisters, the fourteen-year-old rescue dog Cali and the twenty-two year old horse Gidget. Dood needed training to be around Gidget and usually watches and plays with her from a distance.
His personality boils down to being sleepy, lazy, and chill, which Mrs. Lovell described as being a great fit for his job. However, Dood is also cuddly, good-tempered, and loves everyone he meets.
A final piece of trivia about Dood relates to the vest he wears at Palo. It has two purposes, with one being to train him to recognize work time versus play time.
“[The vest] trains the dog [to know] ‘when I’m wearing this vest, I’m working,’” Mrs. Lovell said. “Because at the end of the day when we take it off… we make it this big thing and I pet him and I throw the ball and he knows that it’s playtime.”
The vest’s other purpose is to let students know that Dood’s a trained facility dog and not to worry when he’s nearby.
“Once he finishes his training, he’ll get an official vest,” said Mrs. Lovell. “I’m gonna put a Palo Verde logo on it or something [like that].”
Dood will be going away to official dog training on May 14th for four months. When he returns, he will be officially certified, and Palo Verde staff will have a better idea of how much work Dood is able to handle.
“I think some of the kids around the school are weary… ‘what is he here for, is he going to sniff drugs out of me?’ That’s not what he’s here for,” Mrs. Lovell said.
“He’s here to bring joy. He’s here to bring smiles to people’s faces, provide comfort, and just to have something for us all to look forward to as we come back from this crazy time.”
So, for now, Dood is at Palo in order to help out students and staff in the ways that he can, and he has a long but exciting journey ahead.