Willow Poodle overcomes rough past


Photo provided by Jennifer Perryman

Willow Poodle helps out in the gym when she’s not busy in the counseling office.

Willow, the poodle therapy dog, belongs to one of the school’s 10th-grade counselors, Nancy Doubrava. Her relationship with Willow has been long-lasting for five years. Nixa High school represents a variety of things from the Blue Ribbon Award to the famously gray turf, nonetheless, one of their achievements involves one furry little friend. 

Doubrava remembers the tragic past of Willow, who got abused for the first two years of her life. Initially meeting Willow at a rescue center in Springfield, she quickly began to adore the small poodle and brought her into her life ever since Willow has helped others likewise when she was helped through programs to find a new home. 

“She is a wonderful dog,” Doubrava said. Willow’s hardworking years turned into a success when she graduated from the training program in prison at Licking, Mo., called Puppies for parole. She was trained by well-behaved prisoners in order to get her excellent citizen K-9 certificate.

Although she is a well-trained dog, there are some rules to follow when near a therapy dog. Doubrava gives tips on how to keep oneself and the therapy dog safe when approaching. Always ask to pet them. Some dogs are easily overwhelmed if they have recently started therapy training, so, ask the owner if petting the dog is OK. A recommended way to pet Willow is always to pet her on her shoulder, never towards her face. Dogs believe this is a threat.

 “Every Day is different,” Doubrava said.

She said Willow’s day is unpredictable, sometimes teachers want her in her class, and other times she is taking walks outside the school.

Willow does not have a strict schedule every day, however, she does go to the spa every so often. Sometimes, Willow plays into small, fun events by dressing up for the holidays. Mrs. Doubrava recently this year dressed Willow up as a rainbow. Coach Jennifer Perryman did something similar with Willow. 

“When she first started walking, I would take her back and I’d put our basketball jersey on her and we did like a little photoshoot in the gym with her,” said Perryman. Willow is known throughout the school by the students and teachers. Coach Perryman, who’s a Health PE teacher/Basketball coach, is familiar with Willow. Perryman said she enjoys taking Willow out for walks during the warm seasons. 

Even when Willow is not with Doubrava, she has seen the caring poodle impact other students’ lives inside Health class, easing their nervousness wherever she goes.

Furthermore, Willow is known as a calm, relaxed pet wonder. 

Perryman said she hopes for opportunities in the future relating to owning her own therapy dog, she says she has considered taking her dog, a Goldendoodle, into training for a while since Doubrava took ownership of one. People who are interested in meeting Willow or other therapy dogs can visit Doubrava and Willow in the counselor’s office.