Mallinson Elementary students embrace Oakley, a canine companion

By Bill Althaus

Lizzy Ogle knows that she cannot change the world.

However, the third grade teacher at Mallinson Elementary School in Sugar Creek, knows she can change the lives of her students, and other students at the school, who are dealing with the COVID pandemic.

Daisy York, a third grade student at Mallinson Elementary School in Sugar Creek, reads to Oakley, the school’s therapy dog.

And those changes begin at 8:40 each morning when students arrive at the school and are greeted by Oakley, her 3-year-old German shepherd.

“We heard that we were getting a new classmate, and we were so excited,” said Daisy York, a third grader in Ogle’s classroom. “It happened over Christmas break – and our new classmate was going to be Oakley.”

“I couldn’t wait to get back to school to meet Oakley.”

That feeling was shared by most students, who give Oakley a pat on the back before going to their classrooms.

“Oakley has been amazing,” said Ogle, who bought Oakley to be a therapy dog. His parents were both therapy dogs.

“We did all our homework, made sure everything was OK’d by the school district and brought Oakley to the school. Before he came, we sent a video to all our teachers, showing them Oakley’s commands, so they would be comfortable around him, too.”

“He has a way of connecting with kids that is really special. From the early morning when he gets them – and gets plenty of loving – to making his rounds to most of the classrooms.”

“There are a few children who don’t want to be around Oakley, because of allergies and things like that, and we understand. We accommodate them, so all our students who do want to be around him have that opportunity.”

Oakley is especially popular during reading time, when it’s not uncommon to see a student curled up with a book, and their favorite reading companion.

“He has a sense of knowing what our students are going through – if they are upset, he snuggles with them,” Ogle said. “He just knows – and it’s amazing to watch.”

She pauses for a moment, and adds, “But he loves to snuggle with everyone.”

Oakley is also helping the students in Ogle’s class to learn new responsibilities.

“We believe in being safe, responsible and respectful,” Ogle said, “and that’s how our students interact with Oakley.”

Lizzy Ogle is Oakley’s owner. She purchased the dog and trained him to be a therapy dog for her Mallinson Elementary students, and the rest of the students at the school.

They take him outside to use the bathroom and make sure his water bowl is full.

“We love Oakley, and we love taking care of Oakley,” Daisy said, “because he takes care of us.”