Major Help


Sam Bartlett

Major gives kisses to handler Jed Heath during robotics. Major is allowed to roam around the class and provide comfort to distressed students. Photo by Sam Bartlett

Keira McGinty

There’s a new furry friend at the Maize Career Academy to help the students through the day. His name is Major, and he’s a certified facility therapy dog.Major’s handler, Jed Heath, adopted the dog from Paws for Freedom, a company which trains dogs into becoming service dogs or therapy dogs.

While a service dog is trained to help specific people with their disabilities, a therapy dog is trained to work in a facility and provide emotional support to anyone and everyone. Major has been trained to properly behave in different situations and goes around to bring cheer to students in the building.

“I saw [the therapy dog] over at Complete High School and how well she was received there, and I knew that our building doesn’t have our own counselor or really any emotional support here in the Maize Career Academy,” Heath said. “I really wanted to do something different, and I’ve seen how well facility dogs have been received in other buildings.”

Heath adopted Major in June. To be able to adopt him, an application needed to be filled out and background checks were made. Afterward, Heath went through a week-long training process to prepare Major for working at the MCA.

Heath said students who are particularly fond of Major will wait at the door of Heath’s room and call his name during passing period to say hello. He can help to improve somebody’s day just by providing a solid presence and distracting them from intrusive thoughts.

Some students, like senior Megan Denton, feel as if Major can provide a companionship without the requirements of interacting with another person. There are times when words can’t provide comfort, and for some, being around people can be exhausting. For certain people, merely being around a dog can make them feel better.

“He gives confidence, because his presence is just there,” Denton says, “He’s just there for you.”

Even if a dog means well, it can provide more stress than comfort. Barking and licking might lead to someone having sensory overload, or even an anxiety attack. Major, on the other hand, knows how he’s supposed to behave to be beneficial to those around him. He stays calm while still giving attention to those who want it.

“[Having a therapy dog] has made me feel happy,” Denton said. “He distracts me from whatever’s going on in my mind. He makes me have positive thoughts. I’m just thinking about him and petting him. He doesn’t judge; he just loves on you. He doesn’t care what’s going on in your life, he just wants to love on you.”