Loving Lotus: Meet John Cary's therapy dog

Loving Lotus: Meet John Cary's therapy dog
Posted on 08/23/2019
jcecc-lotus.jpgEven though we're only a couple of weeks into the school year, parents and students at John Cary Early Childhood Center already know you can count on one thing: Lotus will be waiting for you as you walk in the door.

Lotus belongs to JCECC paraeducator Darla Schollman and serves as the school's therapy dog. This is her second year on the job, and she is following in some huge footsteps.

Schollman's dog Dajha served as the John Cary's therapy dog for more than a decade after she excelled in puppy classes.

"The people there said she had a great demeanor and that she would be a great working dog," Schollman said. 

Dajha only came to school two days a week when she first started, but it quickly became a full-time gig. 

"The response we were getting from our school community was that she was just so impactful for our students transitioning into the classroom or between classes," school director Ann Westbrook said.

At the beginning of last school year, Lotus joined to form a dynamic duo.

"I took Lotus to some classes, but Dajha essentially trained Lotus," Schollman said. "Whatever Dajha was doing, Lotus had to hurry up and sniff this, eat this, sit here, lie there." 

Dajha passed away at the end of last school year, and it left a huge hole in the John Cary community.

"When we ordered t-shirts at the beginning of the year for each staff member, she had her own t-shirt," Westbrook said. "She attended our staff meetings. She was always a presence with us." 

The staff presented Schollman with a framed photo of Dajha following her passing that now hangs near the front doors of the school to serve as a reminder of her years of service.

"We miss her tremendously, and Lotus has stepped into that role now to follow in her pawprints," Westbook said.

A large part of the job is to be one of the first to greet students everyday. 

"Lotus is up here on the red carpet for arrival and dismissal time," Schollman said. "Kids come in with a huge smile on their face and a bag of bacon treats for Lotus." 

Erin Oberbeck's family has been bringing treats for Dajha and Lotus for the past four years.

"They're always sniffing the backpack waiting for us to get the treats out," Oberbeck said. 

In addition to greeting students in the morning, Dajha also has other duties during the day.

"She's an incentive for students like a reward activity at the end of the day," Westbrook said. "You can take her for a walk, bring her a treat, visit her, pet her or run some special errand for Lotus. She's a great incentive." 

"Sometimes she's used as more of a calming thing," Schollman said. "Kids can sit and pet her, read a book to her or talk to her."

The John Cary staff is just as attached to Lotus as the students are. 

"If they're having a bad morning and Lotus comes running in with her toy in her mouth and wanting to play, it's hard to stay in a bad mood," Schollman said. 

The John Cary community has become so accustomed to Dajha and Lotus, they can't imagine their day beginning without them.

"The highlight of everyday is making sure we have that treat for Lotus before school and always going to give her a goodbye pet after school too," Oberbeck said. 

"It would not be the same place or have the same feel without them," Westbrook said. 

Watch the video to see what it's like to be Lotus for a day: 

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