Lovable therapy dog Sisi raises joy, reduces stress at Roger Bacon High School

'It's unbelievable how much the whole school seems brightened up'
Posted at 6:57 PM, May 22, 2019

ST. BERNARD, Ohio — When Assistant Athletic Director Brandon Spaeth goes to work at Roger Bacon High School, his dog Sisi goes with him - and not as a sidekick.

Sisi, just months old, is his co-worker. The proof is in her staff badge and the fact that the Australian Labradoodle has her very own workspace -- one she shares with humans but has made her own.

You see it in the toys around the office. You hear it, too.

“She's walking in and all the girls, at least, go, ‘Oh my gosh, it's Sisi,’” says sophomore Sam Mumper.

That is Sisi’s purpose as an official therapy dog.

“That is why we have her here ... to bring that into this building. Schools are tough places,” says Guidance Director Pam Rosfeld.

Sisi’s job is to take down the stress level.

“Oh, absolutely - a good 200 notches down,” says freshman Ben Obringer.

WATCH how students react to Sisi:

“She's a working dog for me,” says junior Maggie Reed. “I have anxiety problems, so I'll come in here and she'll calm me down to the point where I can go back to class.”

Just weeks on the job, Sisi's already one of them.

She even has a nickname.

“I call her Cedric,” says sophomore Corey Kiner.

“Why? I just like giving people nicknames. It's fun and nobody at the school is named Cedric. She's unique.”

Especially because she can show affection in ways human staffers - by law - cannot.

Guidance Director Rosfeld says that’s important in this hyper-connected social media world:

“When you're sitting on the floor playing with Sisi, you're a little disconnected from that and you're just right there with her in that moment,” Rosfeld says.

When Sisi's outside the guidance office, students take time for a warm fuzzy - over and over and over again.

Spaeth, the assistant athletic director who gives Sisi her after-school home, might as well be invisible to her when she’s on the job.

“And I get it totally,” Spaeth says. “I understand. That's the power of the pup, from my perspective. But then within the school community, it's unbelievable how much the whole school seems brightened up since we got her three weeks ago.”

If personalities make places what they are, Sisi is an important new addition. Within Roger Bacon's walls, she's part of the heartbeat.

“She is living, breathing joy,” Rosfeld says.

The people at Roger Bacon say they got the idea to bring in their newest Spartan from Badin High School, which introduced a therapy dog to its campus last year.

There's real community buy-in with Sisi.

A local vet sponsors her medical and grooming care. The students voted to name her Sisi as a nod to St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.