HISD Police Department comfort dog helps ease back-to-school jitters

First impressions are always hard, but Jamaica took the first day of school in stride.

The hypoallergenic Bernedoodle — a special breed that has Bernese Mountain Dog and Poodle parents — welcomed Wesley Elementary School students back to school with her tail wagging and a paw-sitive attitude.

The pup recently joined HISD Police as the department’s first-ever comfort dog, working on campuses across the district to help combat stress and anxiety in students and build trust between police, students, and the community. 

“Coming back post-pandemic, we understand that some kids are going to have some adaptation problems,” HISD Police Chief Pete Lopez said. “It’s our hope that Jamaica will help ease that transition from being at home to being back at school and being social again.”

Also present on the first day at Wesley was Luci, a chihuahua, who works as a comfort dog in the Social and Emotional Learning department. That program strives to increase student academic achievement within a safe educational environment by addressing emotional and behavioral barriers to learning. They also have a second dog, Omie, who is a miniature goldendoodle.

“During this time, it’s especially important for our students to be able to self-regulate, build relationships, and (participate in) conflict resolution,” said Dr. Roberta Scott, who serves as the director of Social and Emotional Learning.

Together, the three dogs will participate in the Pet Assisted Wellness Support Program, or PAWS. Offered in partnership with HISD Police and Social Emotional Learning, the program is designed provide comfort and support to students in crisis.

“One of the goals we have for that program is to take away the stigma between the police department and students,” Scott said. “We have a lot of work to do but we are excited about launching this program with HISD Police.”

Students will have the opportunity to help HISD Police give Jamaica a new name through a districtwide renaming contest [information can be found here]. Each HISD classroom can submit one name for the new pup online.

The winning name will be chosen by HISD Police, with the winning classroom earning a free pizza party and a visit from Jamaica. A drawing will be held to determine the winner in the event of multiple submissions with the same name.