Students at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic High School in Lee’s Summit love their classmate, Mike, an Australian Shepherd/Bichon, Aussie Chon puppy. He is the perfect friend and companion for students who may need a lift throughout the day or who may have trouble making friends.
“Mike rides to school with me every morning,” Jodie Maddox, principal at St. Michael, says. “He has a puppy car seat and harness, so he is safe in the car, and he is learning to love and associate those things with going to school. As soon as we get to school he runs to the Learning Stairs to look for kids that he can greet and ‘hang’ with until classes start. Mike is a great friend and is happy to be with anyone. He gives purpose to a lot of kids for a lot of reasons.”
She explains that the Australian shepherd in him is a working dog who learns quickly and knows his job already, and the Bichon is hypoallergenic which is a good choice for the school regarding students who might have allergies.
St. Michael opened in 2017, and Mike started school with the students. The St. Joseph-Kansas City Catholic Diocese had been planning to open St. Michael for about five years.
It is the legacy of Archbishop O’Hara High School. Jodie had an office from 2016-2017 at AOHS and was working on opening the new school in Lee’s Summit as well as helping to transition those students to the new school.
During that time, one of the senior students, Abby Hyde, who is from Lee’s Summit, was a peer mentor in the Special Learning Center and asked Jodie if she would be interested in having a dog at St. Michael to work in the Learning Center.
“I was excited about the possibility, and together we began researching different dogs and options regarding working dogs in schools. Abby wanted to do something for the new school that would leave a mark and influence the climate and culture in a positive way. We spent over a year looking into adopting a rescue dog, investing in an actual service dog trained for specific tasks, listening and learning about working dogs,” she says.
They decided they just wanted a puppy that would grow up at the school and know no other life.
Mike is the director of Love and Hospitality! His main job is to give and receive love all day long. He works in the SMILE Zone (St. Michael Inclusive Learning Enhancement Zone.) Peer Mentors, who are seniors and juniors, work with students who have special considerations and teach different life skills to them “with” Mike. The students learn responsibility, empathy, patience and many other virtues. Making friends and patience come naturally with Mike.
He is currently going through a formal training program, “Sit Means Sit,” and will eventually learn 10 to 12 commands. The Peer Mentors are in charge of working with Mike and the SMILE student. They teach the SMILE students to care for him in many ways. One thing they started was giving him a SMILE SPA each week. Giving the puppy a bath is now a big hit in the SMILE Zone. They also take him potty and give him treats when he has done good things. They are learning to read his cues and anticipate his needs, just like friends do.
St. Michael the Archangel Catholic High School is located at 2901 N.W. Lee’s Summit Road, Lee’s Summit, MO 64064.