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School Counselor and Therapy Dog Share Paws-itivity at Gateway Elementary

Kelsey Buglewicz-Miller and students read with therapy dog SammyStudents squeal with excitement as Sammy enters their classroom at Gateway Elementary. 

“I get really excited to see Sammy, and she wags her tail a lot when she sees me,” said Yazline Negrete, a Gateway Elementary fourth grader. 

Sammy is a therapy dog, supporting the work of Kelsey Buglewicz-Miller, an Omaha Public Schools counselor.  

“Sammy knows how I’m feeling and gives me hugs to make sure I’m okay,” added Negrete.  

Buglewicz-Miller brings Sammy to Gateway Elementary each Friday. They visit classrooms to read with students or sit quietly together. Sammy does it all with a twinkle in her eye and a wagging tail.  

“When Sammy puts the harness and bandana on, she knows she’s going to work and about to get a million pets,” said Buglewicz-Miller. “When Sammy comes to school, you can see the joy in our building.”  

Within a week of fostering Sammy and her sister, Sweet Pea, Buglewicz-Miller and her husband knew they wanted to adopt the duo. Buglewicz-Miller thought Sammy would make a great fit as a therapy dog for students at Gateway Elementary.    

“Sammy has always been calm in big crowds,” said Buglewicz-Miller. “I knew Sammy was the perfect dog for the job.”  

Buglewicz-Miller says therapy dogs can help boost a student’s mood and improve behavior.

“One of my favorite things to observe is the peace Sammy brings to a classroom,” said Buglewicz-Miller. “Sammy is a natural kind of diffuser. It's really cool to watch the energy shift up or down to whatever is needed in that moment.” 

When students read out loud to Sammy, it not only improves their reading skills but also their confidence. Buglewicz-Miller says students often forget she’s there because they focus on Sammy.   

“Dogs give their full attention unconditionally to any state kids are in,” said Buglewicz-Miller. “Sometimes students don’t want to talk to anyone. They feel most comforted sitting next to Sammy and can quietly work through their feelings.”  

This partnership highlights one of the many ways our school counselors support student success. The first week of February is set aside to recognize all school counselors during National School Counseling Week Feb. 5-9, 2024. 

February 2024

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