Facility dog brings smiles to middle school students

Students with Oric  thumbnail247185

On a daily basis, 2-year-old Oric, a yellow Lab/Golden Retriever mix, brings smiles and joy to the faces of Westhampton Beach Middle School students.

Oric, the school’s new facility dog, recently made his first appearance at the school with his handler, social worker Kathryn Swezey.

“Oric has already made an impact in the few days he has been at the middle school,” said Swezey. “The students all light up when they see him enter the hallways or their classrooms.”

Swezey broached the idea of bringing a facility dog into the school a year and a half ago. Once approved by administration, she began the official application process with Canine Companions for Independence. The nonprofit provides facility, companion and service dogs at no cost.

Before being matched with Swezey, Oric, who was bred for temperament, was raised by a volunteer puppy trainer for 16 months and then returned for six months of professional training at the Northeast Chapter of Canine Companions for Independence in Medford. While training, Oric learned 40 impressive commands. He is skilled at turning off lights, opening and closing doors and drawers, and, of course, making students smile.

Prior to taking Oric home and into the school, Swezey was required to complete two weeks of training and pass a final practical to become a certified handler. She is required to be recertified in another six months and then annually.

Swezey says Oric will assist in individual and group counseling, as well as working in the classroom to help deliver the school’s social emotional learning curriculum. He will also act as a social bridge for students who may have difficulties socializing and those who exhibit anxiety and school phobia.

“Oric will help deliver lessons on loyalty, friendship, responsibility, kindness, respect, mindfulness and so much more,” said Swezey. “The possibilities are limitless.”

When not at school, Swezey said, Oric spends his time going for long walks, playing with his sister Daisy, who is a pit bull mix, and just being a regular dog.

Date Added: 6/2/2023