NEW MADISON, Ohio (WDTN) — A Darke County school district has added a very important member to its team to help students throughout the school day.

“We’re excited about having Gus on campus,” says Superintendent Josh Sagester of Tri-Village Local Schools.

Not every school has four paws roaming the halls, but Gus is Tri-Village Local Schools’ new certified therapy dog.

“He’s soft,” says kindergartner Tucker Bruns as he pets Gus.

“We get to get out of class and be with a dog,” exclaims 6th grader Aubrey Eley.

The one-and-a-half-year-old Bernedoodle will be in schools a few times a week to help with social and emotional needs of students.

“Here at Tri-Village, we try to support the whole child. This was another way in which we could do that,” said Sagester. “We’re also using him in some curricular opportunities as well with regards to early literacy and allowing our children to read to Gus, write letters to Gus.”

Elementary school principal Shane Mead donated Gus after his two dogs had a litter.

“It’s something that my wife and I wanted to do. This place has welcomed my family and my three daughters that go here with open arms,” says Mead. “When I introduced Gus at the pep rally, or assembly, they were super excited. We kind of kept that as a surprise, so when we walked him out it was deafening in there.”

Angie Harrington, the elementary school secretary, is Gus’ handler and took the lead to get certified through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.

“He went through some testing, very extensive testing so he had to be able to socialize, obey commands,” says Harrington.

Throughout the school day, he sits with Harrington in the office to bring smiles to students and make the day a little brighter.

“When they come in the office and see he’s in there, their faces light up. You never know what kind of morning they’ve had or the night before what’s happened. So when they can come into the office, and they can sit down with him or they can pet him, or play ball with him, it just makes all the difference in the world for these kids,” says Harrington.

“Our kids have become a little bit more vulnerable. They’ve been cooped up with the pandemic, and this is something again to get them to look forward to going to school. We want our kids to want to be here, and this is just another step in that direction,” says Mead.

The superintendent says they are still getting all of the logistics worked out, but Gus will be making frequent visits to all of the schools in the district.