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The Occidentalist

The Occidentalist

The Occidentalist


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West Welcomes Gus as a New Staff Member

West Senior High hopes to bring comfort into students’ days with the new addition of a certified therapy dog.
Photo Credit: C. Copenhaver

  Gus is a 2-year-old lab that is a certified therapy dog. He was certified in November 2022 and is gradually coming into Traverse City West Senior High School each day. Brightening up students’ days is a job of Gus’. 

  “It is very visible when I come into the school, come into the library, everybody lights up,” Genevieve Minor, librarian and Gus’ handler, said. 

  Gus has proven to lift many people’s spirits. Many students love coming to see him during the day, and say that he boosts their mood. Since Gus is still on the younger side and this experience is new for him, he has been having a few struggles. 

  “Lunch is really hard for him right now, that is 90 minutes of new smells,” Minor said.

  Being new to the school, Gus has had a hard time adjusting to seeing all the students. Being in a new environment can take a while to get used to. Allowing Gus to become a therapy dog has taken many years. 

  “This has been a project Mr. Esper and I have been working on actually since probably 2017,” Minor said. 

  Allowing a therapy dog into West Senior High has taken many years because there have been many different obstacles. Minor was going into a graduate program at first, so she was not able to take care of a puppy at that time. After she graduated, she was looking for a puppy from a specific breeder in Charlevoix. Oyster Bay Farms had many labs for sale but there was a long waiting list for the puppies. When Minor became first on the list, she was able to pick a puppy out to start her new journey. Oyster Bay Farms has been a very generous breeder. 

  “They partially donated him to our school, [so] I give them updates,” said Minor. 

  Oyster Bay Farms doesn’t usually give a discount on dogs. This was a special occurrence because Gus was going to be a therapy dog. Having a therapy dog has shown to make a difference. He puts smiles on students who are having a rough day. 

  “He’s the best dog ever,” freshman Layla Ortiz said. 

  Ortiz loves to go see and play with him during the school day. She said that he makes her days better. Minor’s goal for Gus is to be an attention intervention. She would love for him to be a reason for students to want to come to school and enjoy their days. Minor has many questions on how big of an impact Gus will make, but only time will tell. 

  “What kind of impact can I have on students that are struggling with the attendance part of it and getting to school? Can I get them connected with Gus? And would Gus be a big enough draw to get them to school?” Minor said. 

  Students are being drawn to the library to interact with Gus. The library is becoming a brighter place because of Gus. Gus is making a positive impact on the daily. 

  “Even just seeing him around is even kinda therapeutic in a way,” Shumsky said.

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About the Contributor
Ashley Beeler
Ashley Beeler, Photographer
Ashley Beeler is a senior and is taking Newspaper for the first time this year. She is taking Newspaper because she wants to get more experience with life skills. In her free time she enjoys playing tennis, hanging out with family and friends, and spending time out on the water. 

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    Mrs. MinorOct 10, 2023 at 10:58 am

    Thank you for your work on this story. Job well done!