PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Dogs have an intuition of when and how to help people in high-stress situations. All a person might need is a dog to help them relax. Bay District Schools implemented a traveling officer and his canines to help staff and students when they need some extra support, and the program is changing lives.

BDS K9 Unit Supervisor Sergeant Jason Klingensmith started at Patronis Elementary School two-and-a-half years ago working as a dog trainer when students started asking him to bring his pups to school.

After the principal, staff, and students fell in love with the dogs, he brought them in every Friday.
Now, Klingensmith and his dogs visit several schools on a weekly basis. Several students have benefitted from Klingensmith and his dogs, and in return, BDS officers can develop a sense of trust and friendship with the students.

“These dogs are smart, they’re intuitive, and they know, kind of, who needs a little more love one day than another,” the Patronis Elementary School Principal Brooke Loyed said. “So, they made it a great connection with our SRO’S also, so that SRO’S, even though they’re in uniform, they’re not scary.”

On several occasions, Klingensmith and his canines would be called to a school to help assist a student going through a hard time.

“I think I’ve done close to 50 visits, five different schools,” SGT. Klingensmith said. “I’ve done, I think, a total of 17 one on one encounters with students and a couple of staff members because like I said, sometimes everybody has a bad day.”

Some students need behavioral help and other times they just need someone to talk to.

“It’s an interesting connection, whereas they might just sit there and not say a word,” Loyed said. “So with the puppy coming in, they were able to verbalize what was going on in their minds because there’s a lot going on in their little minds. So that made a great connection for us.”

Klingensmith said he hopes to integrate more therapy dogs in the future.