Therapy dog eases stress for students at high school

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- The most popular kid at one Wausau, Wis. high school isn't a student - but a dog.

Students at Wausau East High School were able to meet "Badge," a lovable, three-year-old Flat-Coated Retriever, who works with the school's resource officer.

After several weeks of behavior training, the canine is finally performing his duties as a therapy dog at the school, helping make the experience a little less stressful for kids.

After his first day, Badge is already a hit with students.

"He goes up to anyone, just always wagging his tail, and he's just super happy," Wausau East senior Alanna Schubring said.

Schubring is just one of many discovering how petting the furry pal helps take some of the stress out of going to school.

"He just brings enjoyment," Schubring explained. "Everyone who has seen him just smiles and it just brightens your day."

Badge is the personal pet of school resource officer, Nick Stetzer.

"I've had kids surrounding me all day long petting the dog," Stetzer said.

Stetzer's days spent working with kids at Wausau East led him to the idea of letting his companion work alongside them, too.

"It's kind of emotional for me," Stetzer said. "Just to see how much of an impact the dog has on a student, and somebody in general."

Though Badge may be most popular around lunchtime, teachers are even looking to have him be part of their classrooms.

"I think that's going to be a great way for them to just feel at ease and be able to learn," Wausau East social studies teacher Hope Cameron said.

Each time Stetzer brings Badge toward students, he helps them see law enforcement in a different light.

"They pet the dog, and we can start a conversation, have a conversation and build that relationship where they can trust me," Stetzer explained.

This furry friend will only be at the school a few days per week as he gets used to his new role. But if he remains this popular among students, he'll likely be there a lot more often - and for students, that's perfectly okay.

Badge is one of the only therapy dogs in Wisconsin used by a school resource officer, Stetzer said. While Stetzer pays for Badge's food and other necessities, the Wausau Police Department pays for his insurance costs whenever he and Stetzer are working together.

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