Since we launched it in 2010, the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum has prompted teachers, counselors, and librarians across the country to adopt shelter pets and make them lovable, calming members of their educational communities. Every day, students from Pre-K through high school are learning lessons in empathy, compassion, and self-confidence through this remarkable program. In Oklahoma, for example, a cat named Weaver teaches students that, as one of our binders explains, Cats Are Muttigrees 2. But much more common are the school dogs, classroom canines who are living examples of the transformative power inherent in the human-animal bond.

A direct outgrowth of the Curriculum is the Comfort Dog Program, a joint effort with the New York City Department of Education. Established in 2016, this popular program continues to expand, impacting the lives of dogs, students, their families, and communities. Seven new schools joined the program in 2018, for a total of 50 schools and 59 dogs, each lovingly adopted from Animal League America.

Sugar, an adorable 3-year-old Terrier mix, was adopted from Animal League America by teacher-programmer Michele Ferrante. She joined the staff at the Elias Bernstein Intermediate School 7 (I.S. 7) on Staten Island, New York, in the fall of 2017, and since then she’s lifted the spirits of the entire campus. Or as one I.S. 7 student said, “When Sugar is around you don’t feel sad. You feel happy.”

Kelly Largo, who teaches 7th grade social studies at I.S. 7, recently sent us an update on Sugar, which we’re delighted to share with you below.

“Sugar is a shining star and plays such a significant role in the lives of the students and staff at I.S. 7. Over the past year and a half, her involvement and positive impact at our school has grown and developed abundantly. The peacefulness students and staff get just from the smallest interaction with her goes such a long way. Sugar is utilized by the administration, teachers, paraprofessionals, therapists, guidance counselors, and deans; even our crossing guards have developed a special bond with her. She is a staple in classrooms and small-group instruction daily, helping students feel more at home and allowing them to participate and engage with ease. She also sits in on guidance sessions, bringing a sense of relaxation to students and creating an environment that allows them to open up. We have seen students who would normally shut down, become open and expressive just by having Sugar around. Sugar loves to get to know the students at our “Meet & Greets” that are held during the student lunch periods of each grade. She also loves going for long walks and spending time outdoors. With Sugar as part of our I.S. 7 family, we are fortunate to have a little piece of home with us each and every day! The Comfort Dog Program is such an amazing addition to the New York City Department of Education.”