Dogs commonplace at Suffolk school

Published 10:12 pm Thursday, June 21, 2012

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy Head of School Colley Bell gives some attention to his dogs, Buddy and Bear, during a break from work on Thursday. Bell brings at least one dog almost every day, and other staff members also bring their dogs.

Today is the 14th annual Take Your Dog to Work Day, and many dog owners across the nation will be celebrating by having their co-workers meet and greet their pooches.

At some workplaces in Suffolk, though, dogs are a regular part of the routine — and not just at doggie daycares, Animal Control and veterinarians.

At Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, 6-year-old Bear, a golden retriever owned by Head of School Colley Bell, is an integral part of the school day.

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“You have to love dogs to work here,” said Amy Morrell, chief of staff and executive assistant to the head of school.

When the buses come in each morning, Bear accompanies a group of first-graders down to their classroom. He then sits watch over the carpool lane as students hop out of their parents’ vehicles to begin the day.

“As a parent, that has gotten children out of my car,” said Ashley Greene, communications coordinator for NSA.

Bell started bringing dogs to work in 1988, when he worked at a boarding school in another state.

“It started with the students,” he said. “I just started bringing them in because the kids asked.”

Since then, he’s had four dogs that have followed him from school to school.

“It breaks open barriers with students,” he said, sharing his belief that the dogs make him more approachable. “The kids are anxious about coming to school, and then they see Bear.”

The school community has taken such ownership of his dogs that a school-wide contest was held to name 6-month-old Buddy earlier this year. The label won over Squirrel by only three votes, Greene said.

Other dogs also frequent the premises. The school’s dean of students has a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, and even the groundskeeper sometimes allows his yellow lab to ride around on the cart with him.

“It’s definitely a dog-friendly place,” Bell said.

For more information on Take Your Dog to Work Day, visit www.takeyourdog.com.