A friendly fluffy face at Salamonie

A friendly fluffy face at Salamonie
Posted on 01/24/2023
LieslBy Kenzie Gamlin | HCCSC Communications Intern

Liesl, a 5-year-old Bernese mountain dog, wanders the halls of Salamonie Elementary School on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Or, as owner and art teacher Cindy Callison calls them, “T-days.” Liesl is a trained therapy dog and loves to hang out with the kids of Salamonie during recess and while Callison teaches her art classes.

Liesl trained to become a therapy dog when she was a year and a half old. Callison says she discovered this idea from a co-worker and friend, Dan Boyd, while working at the old Lancaster Elementary School.

Boyd had a Bernese mountain dog, Bennet, who would wander throughout the halls of Lancaster. Bennet would hang out with kids and provide a safe environment for everyone who surrounded him. Callison fell in love with this idea and believed Liesl had the perfect disposition to do the same thing.

In 2019, Liesl worked hard to become a therapy dog and was successful. Soon after being officially certified, she started making trips up to Salamonie and also to Taylor University to visit the students on campus.

Not only a therapy dog and occasional art assistant, Liesl is a mom of three different litters. In her first, she had a puppy named Cedar. Cedar is now 3 years old and recently completed his training to become a therapy dog just like his mom! Callison plans on bringing Cedar into Salamonie for cameo appearances in the near future.

In Liesl’s third litter, Callison decided to keep one more puppy named Aspen. Aspen is 15 months old and is going to continue Liesl’s family line by having puppies as well.

On Liesl’s “T-days,” she will wake up with Callison and head off to school. She gets very excited to meet with the kids and will greet them as they get off the bus.

“She loves kids, she just gets so excited,” Callison said about Liesl. “I mean she was running up the hall barking this morning! ... She’s so happy to be here. She runs across the parking lot in the morning barking like she’s saying ‘C’mon, mom! We’re here!’”

After the school day begins, Liesl is in the art room with the students and snoops around seeing the projects everyone is working on. She then, of course, takes a nap. It is a lot of excitement for one day.

Callison says that the Bernese mountain dog is actually a very lazy and food-motivated breed. While Liesl may not play catch, she is very easy to train because of this motivation. Liesl is known to snack on bully sticks and dried liver treats. And, on occasion, she will enjoy some eggs and bacon from Callison’s plate!

Salamonie students have the opportunity to earn Rebel Bucks, a form of money they earn with good behavior. They are able to “buy” different items from their school store with their Rebel Bucks. At the store, Callison provides pictures, magnets and time for the kids to hang out with Liesl. During this bought time, kids will be able to hang out with Liesl and Callison and have some one-on-one time during recess.

“I think she’s fabulous,” said Salamonie Principal Dawn Collins. “We’ve got some kids that struggle with self-regulation sometimes and Cindy has allowed them to walk Liesl and find different ways to incorporate her into their day. Really, Liesl is a part of the staff, except she gets paid in dog treats instead of money.”

Callison is overjoyed with the support she sees for Liesl and is very grateful for the administrators and staff of Salamonie for being so welcoming and accepting of Liesl, letting the kids have the opportunity to experience a therapy dog and letting Liesl see her favorite little kids on a regular basis.
Liesl poses for her annual Christmas card photo
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