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A local elementary school has a four-legged counselor

Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 8:41 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -

One local elementary school has a new counselor sniffing around campus.

He has a fluffy face and likes to give sloppy kisses...but no one seems to mind.

His name is Murphy Dean.

The Bernese Mountain Poodle mix is a new member of the faculty at West Bay Elementary School.

Murphy and school counselor Kelly Dean are part of the dynamic Dean duo. They are a therapy team.

“He’s been with me since he was a puppy,” said Dean. “We’re trained through Intermountain Therapy Animals, which is an organization here, well it’s all over the place but here in Northwest Florida,” said Dean. “We’re certified through the Intermountain Therapy Animals and Therapy Patient Connections.”

Kelly Dean has worked at West Bay for 5 years, the last three years as the school counselor. But Murphy Dean started his job at the end of April.

“It’s so wonderful taking him around campus and having him smell the smells of the children and get used to their backpacks and other aspects of the school,” said Dean.

With their parent’s permission, Murphy is slowly being introduced to the students...or scholars as they’re called at West Bay.

“That’s why I brought you here today to have a special meet and greet,” Dean told the scholars. “He is just big and fluffy, isn’t he? Well, this is how he came big and fluffy.”

As the students become more familiar with Murphy, Kelly Dean will ease him into his role as big and fluffy therapist.

“We’ve had a lot going on this year at West Bay and the students have had a lot with the pandemic and Murphy is going to be able to provide that love and support and comfort for those people,” said Dean.

They have big plans for the future.

“Any of the students that we have that maybe are having some difficulties at home, some family changes, or some trauma, Murphy will be able to meet with them individually,” said Dean. “We’re looking at doing some incentives with our children. Some of our children that maybe have some attendance or some behavior concerns we’re looking at somehow including Murphy in that type of program.”

Next school year five-year-old Murphy may be putting on his reading glasses to provide some extra encouragement for what Dean called reluctant readers.

“Sometimes they’re very reluctant to read aloud or read in front of others,” said Dean. “But Murphy has wonderful ears and he’s a wonderful listener for readers and he’s non-judgmental.”

Murphy is already a campus favorite and not just with the kids.

“The days that he’s here, I am seeing a change in the staff,” said Dean. “There’s a feeling or vibe. People seem to be much more relaxed, easy-going, they’re a little happier.”

You can tell he is literally teacher’s pet.

“Why get up and leave your bed when you could nap all day instead,” Dean read from a book entitled ‘If my Dog Murphy could talk.’

Even though they may be having fun with Murphy, the students are learning valuable lessons.

“They know whenever they see Murphy, whether out on the sidewalk or in the hallway, they have to ask permission before they’re allowed to come and pet him,” said Dean. “That’s a wonderful skill to teach them anyways for animals or dogs in the neighborhood.”

This paw patrol seems to be the perfect fit for this school.

Unlike the students, Murphy only gets to go to school a couple of days a week. He may not get a regular paycheck but he does get a lot of hugs.

Because he is a Bernese Mountain Poodle Murphy is hypo-allergenic.

Bay District Schools is very supportive of Murphy becoming a member of the West Bay family.

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