Paws Right Now… and Read

May. 31, 2023
Two dogs sitting

Service dogs, Liberty and Hank, change vibe at Denver school

DENVER – “I’m telling you, it’s magic,” said Annie Larkin, principal at Lowry Elementary in Denver Public Schools.

Two new service dogs at the school know when students are under pressure and offer comfort in a way only canines can.

I mean, just look at ‘em.

The school even has “pupdates” every week on their social media.

Liberty, the darker of the two, came on board in February after a “Pennies for Pup” fundraiser and grant money matched by the PTO to pay for her. She’s highly trained as a social-emotional facility dog.

Hank was a bonus. Larkin, who partnered with nonprofit Bella’s Buddies, takes them home every day.  But she paid for Hank herself because she wanted a puppy. Turns out, perhaps since the dogs are related, Hank is a natural and takes his training cues from his “grandma,” Liberty.

“When they put the vest on, they know they’re at work,” she said. “They live for kids.”

Liberty has memorized the scent of every staff member and student and can now sniff out when someone is stressed. She walks around the classroom to greet students and occasionally sits next to someone who may be having a hard day. “Dogs know,” said Larkin.

Some of her students deal with trauma, abuse, transitional housing and other issues and she would often get calls from teachers during the day. “Ever since Liberty, my walkie-talkie is silent,” she said.

The dogs boost staff morale, too, including her own. Students love to visit the principal now, she laughs. They sign up for a 5-minute “Liberty Pass” and it transforms their day.

The dogs will be at Lowry Elementary Wednesday and Thursday this week before summer break so hound us if you want to see their magic.

Here are a few photos.