Meet The Allie Project

The people below are all education professionals whose schools currently benefit from a therapy dog provided through the Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence Therapy Dog program. Each has been instrumental to the creation of this project, including the provision of the initial compilation of lesson plans found on this site. These folks are the spirit and energy behind The Allie Project.

Jillian Ranazzi and Sara

Anthony Wayne Local Schools, Whitehouse, Ohio 

   Waterville Elementary

Sara works with 450 students in several different environments throughout our school. She is always available for individual counseling services, and is especially helpful when students are experiencing feelings of grief or anxiety. She also comes with me to any classroom guidance lessons I do throughout the year. I use the characteristics Sara displays (kindness, friendliness, trustworthiness, etc.) as the basis for character education throughout the building.

Several of our teachers are trained to work with Sara in their classrooms. Each week, she visits these classrooms where she may have students read to her, act as a reward for teachers to use during class time, or assist in any other way the teacher may find helpful.

Sara is also an essential part of our building wide Bucket Filling program. Each morning, she visits a different classroom in order to “fill the students’ buckets” (see corresponding "Bucket Filling" Lesson Plan).  We also have a Bucket Filling store each month in which students can enter a raffle for "Sara Time."  If they win this raffle, students earn 10-15 minutes of individual time with Sara. This can be spent by going on a walk, reading, or throwing the ball to her. Every month this raffle continues to be a huge motivator for our students!

Sara is an awesome representative of Waterville School. She is loved and appreciated every day by our students (Kindergarten - 4th grade), staff, parents, and community members.

A quick success story: This year, our kindergarten students came in for individual Kindergarten Readiness Assessments during the first two days of school. If Sara had not been available to us, these days would have been significantly more stressful. One kindergartner in particular, after being home with her parents for the entire summer, came to school for her appointment on the first day experiencing extreme anxiety. When I came for her, she tensed up, grabbed her mom, and began to cry. I tried a few different ways to get her to come with me, none of which helped to calm her down.  After a few minutes, I told her she could come to my room where Sara was. She calmed down immediately, excited about introducing Sara to her mom. After mom came in and saw Sara for a few minutes, this student was willing to separate and start working on her assessment with me.

Sara remained in the room throughout the entire assessment. We took a couple of breaks so the student could pet or talk to her. This student then left with a completely different attitude about kindergarten, and by the time she returned to school, she walked in completely on her own with a huge smile on her face. Every time she sees Sara, she lights up. The most special thing about this experience for me was seeing how much of an impact this had on the child’s mother. She has expressed to us on several occasions how much having Sara in the building means to her and her family. This is one of many examples of how special and important Sara is to Waterville!

Jillian and Sara in the classroom.

photo of Jackie and Ike in front of a fence.

Jackie Boyd and Ike
Bryan City Schools, Bryan, Ohio
   Washington Elementary
   Lincoln Elementary
   Bryan Middle School

Ike works in Washington Elementary School (K-1), Lincoln Elementary School (2-3), Bryan Middle School (4-8), and he visits our Bryan Preschool and Bryan High School once a week.  He is used in classroom character lessons, counseling - individual and small groups, community representation.  He is also used in regular classroom instruction occasionally, including art classes and measuring lessons. Ike impacts the lives of approximately 850 students.

When I think of impact, I recall a student, upset and laying on the gym floor.  He refused to get up and move or talk to anyone. I walked in with Ike and sat down on the floor by the student, commanding Ike to lay down right next to the him on the floor. I didn't say a word. Immediately, the student extended his arm to pet Ike, who rolled over on his back, practically onto the student. He began to smile, sat up, and rubbed Ike on his belly. I invited the student to come with me to my room to talk about what happened. Without hesitation, he got up and walked with Ike and me to my room where we were able to process what happened to him and how he could handle such situations in the future.

Marcella Holmes and Victor

Community Schools of Frankfort, Frankfort, Indiana
   Blue Ridge Primary

All 507 students have access to Victor during arrival and dismissal, but each day, different grade levels have a student chosen by the teacher to go on a walk with him (21 students per week). This is something new I'm doing this year and it's a BIG hit.  Students look forward to it and even teachers see it as a positive!

Several of the teachers have told me how much an impact getting to go on "Victor Walks" has had.  One in particular has a student with behavior issues, and knowing they have a chance to walk with Victor has made a difference in their behavior in the classroom. 

Photo of Marcella and Victor

Photo of Maria and Hayden

Maria Little and Hayden
Findlay City Schools, Findlay, Ohio
   Glenwood Middle School

Hayden works primarily with the School Counselor’s and in the classrooms, in a school of 600 students. He's done a few things in the community as well. Not long ago, he made a special trip to Whirlpool Corporation to educate others on his role in the school.

When I think of what Hayden has brought to our school, the story I share is powerful. I watched as he helped a student with major anxiety, frequently absent from class and then from school due to her condition, find peace and excel in the classroom. We were very concerned this gifted young student would not be able to learn in a traditional school setting and would need to be educated on-line ... Hayden has changed that. Initially, he stepped in as a source of anxiety relief. In time, he became a connecting point for discussion about coping with our experiences. Today, we have tears and fears NO MORE. She is coping much better and, as mentioned above, excelling academically!

Here is the student's personally written success story, also found on our Success Story page:

Hayden and Klaudia: Trusted Friends

Emily Fackler and Clover
Findlay City Schools, Findlay, Ohio
   Northview Primary and Bigelow Hill Intermediate

Clover greets around 700 students, K through 5, each day. She is in classroom guidance lessons every day serving 60 students. She also works individually with students and me serving around 15 students individually. She helps with learning, especially reading, and in Individual/Group Counseling and mediation.

Clover has made a difference in each one of our students. However, in my opinion, she has made the most difference in the lives of a pair of twin students who started the school year very afraid of dogs. They would often run when they saw Clover and me coming into the building.

With their parent’s permission, I began working with the girls and their fear of dogs. Clover provided a unique experience to help them grow more comfortable around dogs. We started handling her toys, without Clover in the room. Slowly, we started to look at pictures of Clover and watch her walk down the hall with another handler. I am happy to say, after 10 weeks, both girls have taken Clover for a walk in the gym, pet her repeatedly, and fed her treats. Their parents have said both girls are now able to go to friend’s homes with dogs, and pet them. Without Clover in our schools, these students would not have had the opportunity to challenge their fear of dogs, and grow to love Clover.

Picture of Emily and Clover in the classroom.


Becky Wank and Jewels
Findlay City Schools, Findlay, Ohio
   Jefferson Primary and Chamberlin Hill Intermediate

We are fortunate to have Jewels working with our K-5 students at Jefferson Primary and Chamberlin Hill Intermediate. Each day she greets nearly 600 students as they arrive to school. Although she primarily works through the counseling program in large and small groups, she often works 1:1. Many teachers utilize her in a variety of ways from practicing reading skills, homework and motivational rewards, and as a positive distraction from life’s daily stressors. She has been involved in special needs preschool socialization programs, hearing impaired units, cross-categorical special needs units and in autism classrooms. Many of our staff have been trained through ADAI’s continuing support so you can sometimes find her assisting in gym class, the nurse’s office, the principal’s office, bus duty or even helping the school custodial staff! Jewels has had her own leadership team of students who have teamed up to learn to care for her, review commands, and promote therapy dogs in schools. She attempts to visit our students if they are in a hospital and has been known to provide compassion and comfort in the funeral home. In the summer she visits different nursing homes, allowing her to keep working when school is not in session.

Jewels has also participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Findlay. She is a cancer survivor, having lost her front right leg to bone cancer. All ages love walking with her and hearing her story as she sports her pink as well!

Recently retired, Jewels works for a limited time each week based on health restrictions.   Prior to her retirement she worked daily with whole classrooms and with any student who needed some extra “paws-itive” attention. She followed a weekly schedule to share time between both school buildings.

There have been many times when coming in contact with Jewels has allowed students to catch their breath, calm down and then return to learning. Some of my favorite moments have involved her interacting with that uncertain new student arriving in our school the first day or with students with disabilities in our buildings. Even students who are nonverbal stretch to find a way to communicate and enjoy some time with Jewels. She is always a wonderful tool to use with students who experience a variety of anxiety issues or have behavioral improvement plans. There’s always a new success story just awaiting …

Tera Matz and Ginger
Fostoria City School District, Fostoria, Ohio
   Fostoria Intermediate

Ginger works with approximately 520 students in 25 classrooms (3rd grade through 6th grade). She assists with guidance lessons based around various leadership traits and the 7 Habits. She also spends time assisting students’ with their creative juices in the art room and reading with students in our Project MORE room. Ginger is the morning greeter where she encounters students as they enter the building, over 500 students daily.

Ginger has been a HUGE incentive for many of our students who struggle with positive behaviors, motivation in the academic areas, and those who experience tragedy. The students will work extra hard to have an opportunity to spend time with her. She has been a great example for displaying the positive behavior of self-control. She is included in every aspect of our school and truly impacts all of our students every day.

Picture of Tera and Ginger

Photo of Darla and Lansbury

Darla Panuto and Lansbury

Lakota Local School District, Kansas, Ohio
   Lakota Elementary

Lansbury has become a school superstar. In addition to the individual kids we work with, we make morning and afternoon social visits in the common areas, as well as have a full day of classroom sessions every Friday. The kids immediately approach him. They talk to both us, and I can sense they are motivated to participate in activities that involve Lansbury.

He attends SADD groups, Asset Team meetings and functions, lunch bunch counseling groups and staff meetings. We have also started "Walking Wednesday" to encourage physical activity in staff and students, and he is a great hit at our weekly "Dance Friday" sessions we have Friday mornings in school. In a typical week, I would estimate Lansbury has contact with 300-400 kids per week.

He also does a lot of funny or ornery things, even to my own embarassment. This makes a big difference because I can teach humility, and the fact that no one is perfect, not even our stand out "Lanzy." Kids eat it up, and this creates yet another level of compassion when we learn to understand life's challenges and diversities.

My favorite story, though, comes not from his school interactions but from a trip to a local nursing home, something I've begun to do when time allows. While visiting, we encountered a resident with Alzheimer's who was in a state of confusion, crying and shaking. The nurse initially steered me away, not want to frighten Lansbury. She said this woman often suffers these sorts of fits uncontrollably for long periods of time.

After we visited with other residents, Lansbury was still showing interest in this woman, who was still having trouble. He was drawn to her, kept looking over to her. So I went out on a limb and we walked over to her. She immediately calmed, sat up, and began to pet and love on Lansbury. The nurses kept saying how amazing he was! It did seem pretty dramatic and surreal, but Lansbury was not phased in the least by this person's behavior and I think he indeed made her happy.

I love having Lansbury at school, and cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am, or how he has positively influenced the atmosphere. He is a true blessing.

Gretchen Herzberger and Brewster

North Ridgeville City Schools, North Ridgeville, Ohio
   North Ridgeville Education Center

Brewster works with kindergarten students currently in all subjects. I am a Title I Reading Teacher and am in all the Kindergarten classrooms daily.  Brewster wears many hats daily. As Greeter, he's the first and last face the kids see. He really sets the tone for the day.

He is a furry ear to counsel. We have a guidance counselor once a week so Brewster picks up the slack seeing kids who need a little love.  It's hard to cry when you have a pair of beautiful brown doggy eyes looking at you or a soft head nuzzling you or in your lap.

Brewster helps students combat anxiety. At times it’s simply walking a student to their classroom or sitting with them as they take a test. In Kindergarten, many students are anxious about learning to read. Brewster is a great partner to read to and practice words with because he can’t read so that means he won’t judge if you make a mistake. Even if a student makes up the whole story he doesn’t care. As long as he is with the students, he is happy.

He is a role model. We currently have Brewster's “Paw”sitive actions program (see matching Lesson Plan). Kids earn paw prints for their class by being caught displaying positive actions. The winning classroom gets a special Brewster bracelet and their picture taken with Brewster. Along with that each child takes a copy of the picture home with Brewster’s “Paw”tograph.

Many students earn time with Brewster as an incentive for good behavior.

Brewster helps shy students make friends. Just by sitting with the student he attracts other kids to him and by being Brewster’s friend others want to get to know the student.

As a cheerleader, Brewster participates in many school and community events. Kids in all grades know and love him. Brewster dresses up and participates in all spirit events with the school.

As Community Ambassador, Brewster has brought so much positive publicity to the district, meeting community members and being written up in the local newspapers. Brewster also visits Alzheimer and dementia patients one day a weekend. The residents love Brewster and show many positive interactions. Some remember their pets and talk about them. Some talk very little but love talking to Brewster. And some show loosening of arthritic joints by petting him. He loves sitting and snuggling, No words are needed.

There are so many “success stories” I could write about, but one that sticks with me was a student who was labeled a “mean kid.” He was the kind of kid who lashed out at people with little to no provocation. I had spoken with him a few times, but our paths crossed when he said some very hurtful things to one of my students with learning issues.

He had recess taken away for two weeks because of this. I decided, instead of having him sit in the office and stew for all of recess, I was going to have him take a walk with Brewster and me. (My thinking was at least he could get some physical activity and burn off a little energy.) At first he was angry and sullen, very rarely talking to me. Slowly, he started talking to Brewster and, of course, I would answer for Brewster. I received some very useful information, shedding light on some of his issues, including neglect in his past which made him shut people out. He would lash out because he was afraid to be hurt again.

We talked about how Brewster lets people in even though he might be afraid. We also talked about how Brewster may get mad sometimes but he doesn’t lash out. When Brewster gets upset he doesn’t bite, scratch or bark. The student in turn shouldn’t hit, scratch, bite, or yell. Like Brewster when the student feels upset he needs to just walk away and tell someone like Brewster comes to me when something isn’t right. The student developed the motto What Would Brewster Do? IWhile we continue to work toward 100%, I am happy to say his aggressive behaviors have decreased dramatically!! He has continued to walk with Brewster and me often and sometimes chooses a friend to walk with him. With Brewster's help, what started out as a negative situation has turned out very positively!

Gretchen and Brewster with fellow staff, Carol Bennett With Carol Bennett (left)

Laura Hufford, Jennifer Parrett, and Veda

Northeastern Local Schools, Springfield, Ohio
   South Vienna Elementary

We have 615 students. Veda is with me for Classroom Lessons and for individual time with kids. Once per month she teams up with our aide to help students with multiple disabilities work on Social Skills. In September, one of our teachers read a story and then had the students (K-2) work on talking to Veda using kind words and good manners.

Thinking about a "success," we had three students move into our district last year to live with grandparents. Dad was incarcerated at one point. I met him last week as he was coming into the building for Parent Teacher Conferences. I introduced myself and Veda. His comment to me was, "My kids LOVE this dog!"

Now, for a dad who had been through what he had been through to know about Veda and her impact on his kids means Veda is in the conversation at home quite a bit. That, to me, is a success!

Cindy Savage and Dwight

Pike Delta York Exempted Schools, Delta, Ohio
   Delta Elementary

Our school therapy dog, Dwight, serves the children of Delta Elementary. He goes home with me. I am a Title Reading teacher and our building is Kindergarten through fourth grade. Dwight happily greets the students in the mornings as they arrive. He also patiently waits for one student who comes early to throw the ball for him. This student was having anxiety about coming to school. With Dwight’s help, he has overcome this issue. If a student is having a rough morning, Dwight will walk that child to class to help brighten their day.

Dwight works in the ED unit most mornings until 10:30. There he helps the children work through their frustrations and sets a good example for appropriate school behavior. At 10:30 he joins my classes where the children look forward to reading to him or throwing the ball for him as a reward for successful group work. At dismissal time, Dwight has hall duty with me. After dismissal time, children who have demonstrated good behavior are selected to go to the gym to throw the ball for Dwight. On an average week Dwight works with about sixty students. This does not include the hundreds of students he greets in the hallways before, during, and after school.

One recent example of Dwight’s ability to be an incentive for good behavior includes a kindergarten student. This student had significant behavior issues. His teacher has a reward system of using “fuzzies”. If he earns eight fuzzies in a day he gets to play with Dwight. This student has had more and more successful days since he has been able to work towards playing with Dwight. Dwight definitely has been the right motivation for this young man.

Cindy and Dwight


Kevin Parkins and Violet

St. Kateri Catholic Schools, Oregon, Ohio
   St. Kateri Catholic Academy
   Cardinal Stritch High School 

“We envision using the school therapy dog as a calm, steady companion and presence in counseling situations, and as a motivator for reading and other curriculum components.” 

Kevin is the Principal of Cardinal Stritch High School and Kateri Catholic Academy, in Oregon, Ohio, and this was his vision in 2011, when he applied for a school therapy dog through Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence. 

He knew the presence of a dog would fit perfectly in his school.  “The sense of family is ever-present in our school.  A school therapy dog will offer unconditional support and stability to students as they progress from elementary to high school years.”

In 2015, he and the schools were matched with a chocolate lab named Violet.  Attentive to children and extremely affectionate, she was the perfect candidate for a school therapy dog.  The school received Violet at ADAI’s 2015 Fall Graduation.  Kevin, along with two guidance counselors who attended team training, were thrilled about the new addition to their school. 

“Violet will be a tremendous asset for many of our students who are lonely and not feeling loved.”

The night of graduation, Kevin expressed to ADAI staff how much of a difference Violet was already making in just her first week at Kateri. One young student in particular, who had been having some difficulty at home, was unable to speak about it with her school counselors before Violet. Once Violet was there, the girl opened up, and was able to have a discussion about her situation. The staff at school was overjoyed. With the student able to share her story, they were able to get her the help she needed. 

It is only the beginning of Violet’s amazing work at Cardinal Stritch and Kateri Catholic. The students have welcomed her with open arms. Some have expressed excitement about going to school to see their new furry companion.  Kevin closes with a thank you:

“Violet is now playing an important role in our retreat program as students often reveal personal challenges.  This opportunity would not be possible without the amazing generosity of the staff, Board, volunteers, and benefactors of ADAI.   We are blessed Violet will be serving the students of St. Kateri and Cardinal Stritch High School into the future.”


Suzanne Reinhart and Kennedy

Tiffin City Schools, Tiffin, Ohio
   Noble Elementary
   Krout Elementary

Kennedy has the opportunity to touch approximately 875 students in two buildings, covering grades 2 through 5, working within the counseling department and in classrooms as needed. Beyond these charges, he is a K Kids member (Elementary Kiwanis club organization), makes weekly rounds at Tiffin Mercy Hospital, assists me in teaching in the Master of Arts and Counseling Program at Heidelberg University, visits at YMCA summer camps, and the local library during summer reading program. Additionally, Kennedy assisted at Columbian High School with the death of a student's sibling, and with grief counseling at Tiffin University after student suicide.

As example of his impact in school, Kennedy helped a child who had curled up into a ball behind the principal's office door relax and return to his classroom. The child has difficulties wanting to be at school. On this particular day, Kennedy opened his toolbox and went to work. His first strategy was to sniff the child ear (as his face was covered). Then Kennedy kissed the boy's ear. At this point, I told the student Kennedy was inviting him to play. I could see a very slight smile on the child's face, but he did not get up.

Next, Kennedy put his paw on the child's back to get his attention and again ask the child to come with him. The student continued to bury his head and refuse to get up, but I could see by his body language he is enjoying Kennedy's strategies. Kennedy really wanted the child to get up and play with him, so he "woofed" at the boy, saying, "PLEASE get up and play with me!"

After Kennedy kindly asked (out loud!) the boy got up, and Kennedy nudged and poked at the boy with his nose all the way to the classroom! Needless to say, the boy's demeanor was completely change and he had a very good day! Since then, he and Kennedy have had a special bond and the student has been successful at coming to school without argument!

Photo of Suzanne and Kennedy with Jenny Barlos
With ADAI's Jenny Barlos

Photo of Bobbie and Joe sitting at a table with Kramer posing in front.

Joe Friess and Kramer

Wauseon Exempted Schools, Wauseon, Ohio
   Wauseon Middle School

Kramer works primarily in grades K through 8. He helps in counseling situations as well as with students needing speech therapy. In community, he is a volunteer with the Salvation Army, collecting money at Christmas. He also visits a local nursing home every Thursday morning and on Thanksgiving.

When he is not performing regularly scheduled tasks (such as speech therapy sessions), he spends time in the library where there is a lot of traffic. I do not think it is a stretch to say he interacts with 300 kids a day in one form or another.

We have a student in the Elementary School who has some pretty significant behavioral issues. The only thing in school that motivates him is "Kramer time."  If he meets certain behavioral goals, he gets to walk Kramer, feed him, or just spend some time with him.  It is amazing to watch how his outbursts have greatly reduced in intensity and frequency. A great success!