Chester, W.Va. (WTRF) – We all know how much Governor Justice loves his dog.
So it came as no surprise when he announced West Virginia’s schools would be getting their own floppy-eared friends.
The dogs are being rolled out this year in McDowell, Upshur, Lewis and Pocahontas Counties.
But some schools, like Oak Glen Middle in Hancock County, have already learned the benefits of having a four-legged creature roam the hallways.
The four-year-old golden retriever belongs to special education teacher Mary Lou Martindill.
And while Meeka’s job on paper is working with her students, in reality she’s everyone’s helper.
We come in the door, she starts with the kids up and down the hallways, she’ll go into different classrooms, they’ll give her little treats or just love on her,Mary Lou Martindill, Special Education Teacher, Oak Glen Middle School
Martindill says Meeka came to the building after she did some research on the power of petting.
With students in her class often facing behavioral or anxiety problems, a canine offers a comforting paw that humans can’t always provide.
And science shows that just touching a dog is beneficial for mental health.
And they have that unconditional love. They don’t really care what you act like, smell like, look like, they just want that attention from you.Mary Lou Martindill, Special Education Teacher, Oak Glen Middle School
At home, she lives a relatively normal dog life, with two other dogs to wrestle with.
But once she walks in those doors, her golden coat and toothy grin are the picture of professionalism.
Meeka has gone to training since she was 14 weeks old, and is happy to stand still for petting or brushing whenever her services are required.
She even has her very own employee picture.
She treats everybody the same. If you treat her with love and respect, she treats you with love and respect. She doesn’t care.Mary Lou Martindill, Special Education Teacher, Oak Glen Middle School
That’s what Mountain State schools are getting with a therapy dog—a comforter, a friend, and a silent but hard worker.
All they have to do is keep the treats handy.