River boy – the boy who would change the world. You hear stories about “great dogs” all the time, but I never knew what that story felt like. I had good dogs, fun dogs, lazy dogs, but never a “great dog”….until….RIVER, the Australian Labradoodle school therapy dog.

Somehow the stars aligned, the universe tilted its head and River, the Australian Labradoodle school therapy dog, fell into my lap. Maybe he came from a distant planet or maybe from the hills of Tennessee? Regardless of his origin, he now calls Kentucky his home and more importantly he calls Holmes High School his mission.

Along my journey I decided I wanted to be a school counselor and eventually a school counselor with a therapy dog! It seemed like a dream too large to dream – a dog in a school? No way! Only a special kind of school with special kinds of people would even think about it.

Enter Holmes High School. Holmes is a special place with special people, but like all public schools they have policies. However, no mountain is too high when you have River by your side. So, we did our research, prepared our presentations, loaded all of our new skills and off we went to face a large committee known as Site Based Members (SBDM). Although we felt we had an air tight presentation, the committee still had more questions. So, we went back to the drawing board. We did more research, had more conversations, created lesson plans and honed our craft in preparation for meeting number two. No stone was unturned, all questions were answered and SBDM approved us! We were school bound!

Our first day of school, we polished our new shoes, sat out our cool lunch box, filled with treats of course, and off we went. We didn’t know where this journey would take us, but we knew the only way to get there is to put one foot in front of the other. As the Chinese Proverb says: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. So, the only way to go is forward.

The first time our feet and paws, of course, hit the back stairs of Holmes High School we didn’t know what would come next. We read all about therapy dogs used in schools, we had connected with Facebook groups about school therapy dogs, but that was someone else, not us. We had dreamed this day would come, but never thought it possible. Just as I hesitated to take the next step, River looked up at me as if to say: “We got this, Mom!” So, off we went!

Each day brought a new smile, a new laugh and a dried tear. Each week a new visitor and a friendly pat on the head. Every month brought a new relationship, a deeper meaning and an unforgettable memory. All my training and all my counseling degrees were all overshadowed by a wagging tail and a lick on the face. It wasn’t me, the School counselor, that was making a difference – it was my River Boy.

My River Boy is a gift. He is my gift that I can share with the world. He was gifted to me and I don’t know why or how. One thing is for sure, there is a higher purpose for him and I cannot selflessly keep that purpose all to myself. So, each day, we continue to walk those back stairs because we know someone at Holmes needs my River Boy!