Shelby was the first Mutt-i-grees School Dog in New York City and was the absolute original in so many ways. There is so much to say about the joy she brought and the lessons she taught all of us. To tell it best- let’s go back to the beginning. In 2014 the Mutt-i-grees Team first visited Shell Bank Middle School in Brooklyn accompanied by two rescue pups. As we walked through the classroom door and removed Lola (as she was called at the time), we heard all the “oohhs and aahhs” from the kids , as well as from Denise Atwood. It wasn’t long before we noticed that Shelby seemed to know what the school was searching for and just what to do to win over the hearts and minds of the students and teachers. Shelby the rescue pup was planting the seed for the Mutt-i-grees School Dog Program!

Shelby’s visit was part of the culminating activity because Shell Bank integrated the Mutt-i-grees curriculum for humane education and social emotional learning. As humans we have different personalities when interacting socially, and with the help of  rescue pups, the students learned canines have different personalities as well. there were two pups, one was a bit shy and tentative interacting- Shelby on the other hand seemed to understand the assignment perfectly. Principal Teri Ahearn’s vision was for Shell Bank to be a place full of young, curious, open minded students and teachers. To embrace new ways of learning and part of that included the Mutt-i-grees Program and integrating Humane Education into Social Emotional Learning and making it part of the fabric of the school.

As our visit continued, Shelby ran around the playpen until a child reached to pet her. Shelby then stopped and devoted her full attention to the student demonstrating unique calm and patience for a puppy. Once the child stopped their interaction, it was off to the circle race around the pen again until the next hand that reached out! Shelby was fitting into the school’s vision for meaningful student engagement beyond mainstream curricula without even knowing it. To address emotional well-being in addition to academics. Shelby seemed to be an incognito expert!

We could not have planned a more solid foundation to integrate social emotional learning at Shell Bank than our beloved Mutt-i-gree, Shelby

- Principal Teri Ahearn, Shell Bank Middle School, NY

It was love at first sight for Ms. Atwood. She inquired about adopting Shelby – and did so immediately. She then began training with Shelby to be a School Dog under the guidance of Principal Ahearn. This also created the opportunity for our first Shell Bank Mutt-i-grees School Ambassador, Juianna. For Julianna’s Service-Learning project, she went with her mom and sister once a week to meet Ms. Atwood and the trainer- learning how to properly work with Shelby so she could teach the other students. Julianna took her newly learned skills to Shell Bank and trained the other students in the Mutt-i-gree Class how to handle Shelby. So many wonderful interactions and conversations about practice, patience, boundaries, actions, reactions and learning social cues for humans and canines occurred. The confidence and trust built in Julianna and all the other students – and the confidence and trust it built in Shelby was not a lesson in any of the curriculum books. Nor were the lessons that were experienced. 

Here are some of Principal Ahearn’s favorite
outcomes from Shelby’s lessons:

Outcome 1:

You don’t need to react with aggressiveness to show confidence.

Outcome 2:

Patience when working to train Shelby.

Outcome 3:

Perseverance and trying different tactics to get the results wanted and needed.

Outcome 4:

You can be close caring friends with someone you thought you did not like at first.

Outcome 5:

You don’t judge when you don’t know. Overall judging is unfair. Understanding and forgiveness should be the path first taken.

Outcome 6:

Others can help you attain your goals. Know who’s there for you and ask for help.

Outcome 7:

The simple things: the lessons on alike and different and dog etiquette.

Outcome 8:

Her ability to deescalate emotional students with calm and stillness. A student had an emotional breakdown came out of his trauma when Shelby identified him and put herself against him so he could pat her. He sat stroking the hair line on the top of her head over and over and he became calm and was able to focus again.

Outcome 9:

As a Border Collie, Shelby’s instinct was to always herd the kids together. Shelby was kept from the hallway when classes were changing. She couldn’t help herself herding everyone to the same

Shelby’s lessons are precious and will live on forever. Our beloved Shelby recently passed away from cancer. It was sudden and our hearts are broken along with Ms. Atwoods. Shelby will be forever missed, forever adored, and never forgotten. She touched so many lives and made them all better. She made the earth a better place. This is the hardest lesson Shelby has taught all of us: to love is the most precious and the most painful when it is lost. But, this is the circle of life – unavoidable. And for us to remember, there’s more out there that needs us. We carry on in her honor passing along the love and goodness she gave freely without judgment or reservation.

Principal Ahearn said, “We could not have planned a more solid foundation to integrate social emotional learning at Shell Bank than our beloved Mutt-i-gree Shelby.”

May our dear sweet girl rest in peace.