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Rescue Dog Boosts Morale at FMHS

Erin Slifer
FMHS Staff

A bloodhound named Roxy is making her mark at Fort Madison High School.

Principal Greg Smith said he decided years ago that if he ever became a principal, he would have a school dog as a way to promote a family atmosphere.

"I want kids to feel safe," Smith said. "I want them to feel like this is just an extension of their home, that we still care about them even though we are not mom and dad.  That everything is going to be fine and it's going to be a great day.  Having someone like Roxy around just kind of adds to that whole feeling.  It's a very comfortable, homey feeling when you have a pet."

Roxy is a 3-year-old black and brown bloodhound who lives with Associate Principal Patrick Lamb.  Lamb adopted her from a rescue shelter in northwest Iowa this year.

"I looked all over the place for about a month before we decided we were going to pull the trigger and go get her," Lamb said.

Lamb said Roxy is not much of a barker, instead sniffing everything in sight or laying on her back for a belly rub. He said he was looking for a specific type of dog: a rescue bloodhound, which is Fort Madison High School's mascot, with a disability.

Credit Erin Slifer / FMHS Staff
FMHS Staff
Roxy is there each day to greet the kids with Associate Principal Patrick Lamb (far left) and FMHS Principal Greg Smith (black shirt).

Roxy fit the bill because her front, right paw did not fully develop, so it is more of a stump with one visible toe and toenail.

Lamb said he wanted a dog with a disability for a couple reasons.  One is that they tend to not be adopted.

"Second of all, it gives our kids the idea that, look how well she is accepted.," Lamb said. "You can be different and at the same time, loved."

Lamb and Smith talked about the idea of bringing a dog into school before Lamb adopted Roxy.

Smith said Roxy is exactly what the school and the students need.  She is laid back and calm, capable of putting a smile on the face of the most distant student.

Smith said Roxy maintains a busy schedule, despite her disability, visits several classrooms each day.

"The first 45-60 minutes would be meeting with kids," Smith said. "A lot of times people will ask to walk her around the building because we have kids walking the building at that time, so she does a lot of that.  (She then) comes into (the central office), gets her treat, and takes a little nap.”

Smith said he pushes her towards the students in the district’s special education and behavioral disorder programs.

Roxy has a special friend in one of those classrooms named Alex, who is a freshman. Alex said he looks forward to spending time with Roxy every day.

“She’s a wonderful dog," Alex said. "Every time someone walks in the door and they are mad, they see Roxy and get happy.  She is the life of the school."

Credit Erin Slifer / FMHS Staff
FMHS Staff
Roxy gets an early morning belly-rub.

Alex takes Roxy on walks around the school and even sits on a love-seat with her.  His teacher said she even catches them napping at times.

Alex said he does not know if he would come to school if Roxy did not come.

Smith said Roxy and Alex have quite a bond.

"Since Roxy came along and he made this connection with Roxy, he immediately comes and finds her when he knows he is escalating or he knows he needs somebody and the teachers aren’t doing it for him, he comes up and grabs Roxy," Smith said. "I will see them out in the yard, walking around with each other, talking to each other and all of the sudden he is back to Alex again, the Alex we know and love."

Smith even has a photo of Alex and Roxy hanging in his office.

Roxy will continue to come to school, even after the students are gone for summer, because someone has to entertain the central office staff at Fort Madison High School.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.