Rudi and Miss Monika

Behavioral Clinician Introduces Therapy Dog to Dike-Newell School

Sweetser clinician Monika Eichler, LCSW provides school-based therapy for students at Dike Newell School in Bath, but she doesn’t work alone. Eichler has a 2-year-old, 78-pound, furry helper: Rudi the dog.

“People love petting him because he’s got that really soft fur,” said Eichler. “He’s got a magnetic personality too. We can’t walk down the street without people stopping to see him.”

Eichler has been working from Dike Newell since 2017 but waited until Rudi was past his “puppy stage” to bring him inside the school as a therapeutic helper.

“I have a stuffed dog in my office that clients like to hug while they’re talking to me. One day I realized he looked just like Rudi, and I thought how much better it would be if they could meet the real dog! So far I’ve introduced him to all of the classes. We talk about his needs and how to be gentle with him. Even for children where being gentle may be tricky, they bring forth their gentleness for Rudi.”

Eichler assures that any students who don’t want to pet Rudi don’t have to interact with him, but that even the most pet-shy people seem to have a soft spot for the fluffy goldendoodle mix

“I had a French exchange student living with me not long ago who was terrified of dogs,” Eichler shared. “Within two days she was petting him.”

She clarified that Rudi didn’t completely absolve the student’s fears, but that his special calmness had clearly helped her overcome a burdensome anxiety. Rudi similarly relaxes clients in Eichler’s care.

“I talk with students about using their ‘golden hands, golden heart’ when we are petting Rudi. I think Rudi brings out the kindness and loving that all people have,” Eichler said.” This is exactly what we need right now. I’m glad the school allows me to do this.”