CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (KDVR) — It’s been a tough year for students, but one Colorado school district is getting creative with how it can help kids who are now back to regular in-person classes.
On Monday, Castle Rock Police Department and the Douglas County School District introduced the newest team member of the Castle View High School family, Buttercup. Buttercup is a 2-year-old golden retriever-sheltie mix who joins School Resource Officer Scott Gillespie in his duties at the school.
Buttercup, a licensed therapy dog, completed six months of training with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Paws and Stripes College in Florida. That was followed by a 40-hour Law Enforcement Investigative Therapy Dog Course through United K9, a national therapy dog certification agency. Together, Gillespie and Buttercup hold three different national certifications as a therapy dog team.
Buttercup’s services will aid police in a very crucial time, as students in the Town of Castle Rock and Douglas County School District have faced the negative impacts of the pandemic and its lasting effects on their academic studies, social life and mental health. Because SROs are often tasked in assisting in mental health incidents with students, Gillespie and Buttercup are in the perfect position to serve as an additional resource to students and staff.
After her recent introduction to the campus, CVHS Principal Dr. Rex Corr noticed a tangible change in the attitudes of numerous staff members and students who had interacted with Buttercup.
“While we as a school community certainly expected positive results bringing Buttercup into service at Castle View, the reality has surpassed our expectations,” Corr said. “Students are drawn to this dog in a very special way, and one can quickly observe barriers melt away. She is quickly becoming a very important part of the Sabercat family. I am grateful to Officer Gillespie for all of his work making this program possible for CVHS.”
The Douglas County School District SRO program is utilizing school-based officers to create an open dialogue between local law enforcement and students, families and staff members. The addition of Buttercup will assist Gillespie in creating an accessible environment around him as an SRO and will help in developing positive relationships between him and the various parties in the school setting.
“Therapy dogs in law enforcement settings have assisted police officers in processing traumatic events, managing stress and limiting the impact of job-related tensions,” Gillespie said. “Now that we’re combining these benefits and putting them in a school setting, we’re looking forward to seeing Buttercup help students who struggle with anxiety and depression, improve the environment around emergency drills, assist in traumatic incidents and generally be a conduit for an increase in positive interactions between students, teachers, staff and law enforcement at CVHS.”
Buttercup and Gillespie are the first SRO-therapy dog pair in the state of Colorado.
Buttercup immediately demonstrated her capabilities soon after she walked through the doors of CVHS.
In just one hour of work on her first day, she provided support to three different students who were brought to the SRO while experiencing varying levels of distress. After spending time with her, all three students were able to return to class to finish out their school day, and Gillespie was able to gather the information he needed to deal with the different incidents.
Buttercup’s presence also aided an additional student in opening up to Gillespie about a difficult situation she had not disclosed for 10 years. This led to some collaborative problem-solving and started the student on the path to healing from the trauma.