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The student news site of Wayland High School

Wayland Student Press

The student news site of Wayland High School

Wayland Student Press

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The process of becoming a comfort dog with BU’s Bean and WHS’ Gruff

Join+WSPNs+Marissa+Mendoza+as+she+interviews+BU+students+and+the+head+of+WHS+counseling%2C+Benjamin+Buffa%2C+on+their+opinions+on+comfort+dogs.+
Credit: Marissa Mendoza
Join WSPN’s Marissa Mendoza as she interviews BU students and the head of WHS counseling, Benjamin Buffa, on their opinions on comfort dogs.

On Feb. 6, Boston University (BU) introduced their new comfort-dog-in-training to students and faculty on campus.  From Feb. 6 to Feb. 11, BU’s instagram held a poll for students to vote on what they would name the 10-week-old puppy. Just a few days later, they announced that she would be named Bean. Bean helps students on campus feel more at home.

“[Students] get pretty excited when they see a dog they can hangout with [and] I think that Bean will be beneficial for students on campus,” BU senior Jessie Sherr said.

Some students believe that having a dog on campus would be beneficial, especially for students’ mental health.

“I think [Bean] is a helpful resource and any sort of mental health support is definitely a step in the right direction,” BU senior Andre Zelaya said. “Animals can definitely be a great comfort.”

Wayland High School has had different therapy dogs  for nearly 20 years.

This year, Guidance Department Coordinator Benjamin Buffa brought in his dog, Gruff, to WHS as a therapy dog.

WHS Guidance Department Coordinator Benjamin Buffa is in charge of the school’s therapy dog, Gruff. Buffa is not only WHS’ official therapy dog handler, but is also Gruff’s owner. This is Buffa’s first year as the school’s therapy dog handler as well as his first year as guidance department head.

“If you ask me, there should be a therapy dog in every room of every building on this planet,” Buffa said. “[Comfort dogs are] an amazing resource we have at our school and a tradition I feel honored to keep alive.”

Bean is currently undergoing training where she will learn how to be a registered comfort dog. She is attending Golden Opportunities for Independence (GOFI) four days a week. Wayland High School’s previous guidance dog, Ricky, attended and graduated from GOFI as well. Gruff did not attend GOFI,  but instead attended Animal-assisted Therapy Services (AATS) for similar training.

“Gruff and I are what is referred to as a credential therapy dog team,” Buffa said. “I am the only one who is technically allowed to handle him in this capacity.”

The process of training a certified therapy dog is fairly similar to how students attend school. There are classes that the dog and handler attend, and  afterwards there is a final exam to certify them both.

“[We began] with a six-week class, Canine Good Citizen, followed by a Therapy Dog Handler lecture that I attended,” Buffa said. “Then there is one final six-week class that is based on higher-level training and a final exam you have to complete after.”

Comfort dog training can be an extensive process to some, but believe that it’s worth it. Some students comment that having a therapy dog on campus motivates them go to school on days when they don’t want to go. Buffa believes that comfort dogs can help students in ways that guidance consolers cannot.

“Sometimes we humans can’t adequately comfort or console a student when they’re struggling,” Buffa said. “But after snuggling with the dog for a few minutes, the student is back to neutral and ready to continue on with their day.”

Some students, faculty, Wayland parents and WHS visitors, enjoying seeing Gruff on campus.

“Gruff has lots of regular faculty visitors,” Buffa said. “We’ve even had parents come by for the sole purpose of meeting Gruff.”

School comfort and therapy dogs are very helpful to some, but it can be difficult for the dogs to properly help students and practice they skills they learned during training when not many students know about them.

“I never heard about Bean until being asked about it [for] this interview,” Zelaya said. “I wish there was some more advertising sent out so that people could know [more about Bean].”

Bean will start coming to BU’s campus every Friday, and by July, will be on campus twice a week. She will come to campus full-time by the fall of 2025 after all of her training is complete.

Bean and Gruff are at seperate stages in their comfort dog training, and Bean is at a university whereas Gruff is at a high school. Although these comfort dogs are undergoing different experiences, they both have had an impact on student life.

“I don’t mean to sound hyperbolic, but [dogs] really [are] magic,” Buffa said. “They are literally angels without wings.”

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About the Contributor
Marissa Mendoza, Staff Reporter
Marissa Mendoza, Class of 2026, is a first year reporter for WSPN. In her free time she likes to spend time with family and friends, play sports, cook, travel and play with her pets.
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