By Erica Thomas, managing editor
MOODY — There is something different strolling the halls of schools in Moody this year and she’s soft, gentle and loves kids. Her name is Izzy and she is a two-year-old Goldendoodle, turned therapy dog.
Her owner, Sgt. Ron Richardson, with the Moody Police Department, saw a video of a therapy dog being used in Cullman County courts. He knew his dog was something special and thought it would be a great idea to share the love.
“I met with Chief Hunt and we presented the idea to the mayor and council and they loved it,” Richardson said. “We presented it to St. Clair County Superintendent Mike Howard and he thought it was a great idea.”
So, off Izzy went, to a two-week training course with Off the Leash K9 in Homewood. Her trainer, Justin Snead, told Richardson since Izzy was already a mild-mannered pup, training should be fun and easy. Izzy underwent a personality assessment to make sure she would be fit for the job. Snead also taught Izzy how to walk without a leash.
“He took her into stores without a leash and she behaves and minds,” Richardson said. “Justin did a phenomenal job with her.”
Of course, Izzy can go back to Off the Leash K9 anytime she needs a refresher course.
Izzy is not a service animal. She is a therapy dog. She comforts and brings smiles to the faces of students and community members in Moody. Students are able to visit with Izzy when they are feeling stressed or sad.
“She’s really good at one-on-one,” Richardson offered. “We have parent-teacher conferences and we will go in there and she’ll lay her head on their lap if they get upset.”
Richardson and Izzy visit each school in Moody. She walks the halls and even has her own Instagram page so kids can keep up when she is away.
“She had a Facebook page, but the kids don’t really use that so they asked for an Instagram page,” Richardson said.
This well-behaved pup offers much more than therapy.
“They have all said Izzy is the best thing for our school and our community right now,” Richardson added. “When she comes in, she just lights up the room.”
While Richardson is performing his SRO duties, Izzy stays by his side. He said she offers a unique experience for students and helps them learn how to interact with animals.
“Of course I tell them not all dogs are like Izzy,” Richardson said. “Not all dogs are very nice and sweet.”
When she visits Moody High School, there is something special about her visits with Principal Chris Walters.
“She goes straight to Walters because she knows she’s going to get Bacon Strips,” Richardson said.
The principal said he looks forward to Izzy’s visits in the mornings.
“It’s pretty neat,” Walters said. “I look forward to her coming in there because she works hard and it’s good to see. She’s been a huge addition to our school.”
St. Clair County Schools Superintendent Mike Howard said the kids love having Izzy in the schools.
“She is serving her purpose as a great therapy dog for our staff and students,” Howard said. “We’re very appreciative of Sgt. Ron Richardson and for him to share his dog with our school system.”
Howard said he has even looked into training for his own dog to do the same job as Izzy.
In her spare time, this gentle K9 likes to hang out at Club Mutts, play with softballs and tennis balls, and spend time at home with her family. Her sisters (Richardson’s daughters Lindsey and Shelby) have had to learn how to share the love as well. For Richardson, that love is something worth sharing.
“She knows when I’m having a bad day,” Richardson said. “She’s like a kid. She knows when to push your buttons and when not to. I get joy from watching her help other people.”
Although Richardson said he wasn’t much of a “dog person” before, Izzy is now truly like family to him.
“She sleeps in the bed,” Richardson admitted. “She’s got me trained.”
Richardson is sure to not overwork Izzy. He said three to four days a week is enough therapy.
“She’s got it made, living the best life of anything there is,” said Richardson.