The newest employee at Taylor Elementary School may look a little different from other teachers, administrators and staff. To start, she’s got four legs, a tail and stands just barely a foot off the ground.
Her name is Kimber, but everyone calls her Kimmy. She’s Taylor Elementary School’s new therapy dog.
Kimmy’s main handler and Taylor Elementary School Principal, Matt Nuttall, along with wife Faith Nuttall, decided the next dog they brought into their family they would train as a therapy dog. Last summer, one of the Nuttall’s rescue dogs passed away and they decided it was time to begin their research.
“I’ve always advocated for therapy dogs, especially with so much research out there about how good they are for schools,” he said. “Especially during COVID right now, it’s perfect timing.”
The couple landed on Kimmy’s breed due to her size and because Micro American Bullies like her have their aggression bread out, Matt Nuttall said.
“I thought the size was really important,” Matt Nuttall said. “Being an elementary school we have kids age three, and Kimmy is about 8-12 inches off the ground, but she’s solid. She’s a thick girl. The idea is that she’s small enough for any kid but also heavy and thick enough so that kids can’t accidentally hurt her. She’s very sturdy.”
Matt Nuttall’s goal for Kimmy is to help improve quality of life at Taylor Elementary for both staff and students. The Nuttalls were appreciative the school board and Taylor Community School Corporation Superintendent Chris Smith were very supportive the idea, and Kimmy was officially approved at the February board meeting.
“They were all about it,” said Faith Nuttall, who also works in education at MSD of Warren Township as the early intervention services coordinator. “They’ve known even from when Matt interviewed that his philosophy is ‘Students First’. Yes, it’s also about staff, community and families, but we’re in schools to serve kids.”
Being the Nuttall’s dog, they paid for the dog and training. They said it wasn’t a very hard choice because it can help people wherever they are, like when they go to Kimmy’s favorite place, Rural King. Faith Nuttall said that although there’s a lot of money and effort that go into it, she and her husband know the impact it can have.
“Where we’re planted is where we want to serve, “ she said. “I understand that I’m not working in Kokomo like he is, but at the same time I am still a part of that community … and I’m supportive of his effort of making Taylor really that community type of feel. It was something that we honestly didn’t think twice about because of that ripple effect that it has.”
Nine-month old Kimmy already has eight certifications from her training by Clint Martin, training she started at nine-weeks old. Her skills are focused mainly on providing comfort. Unlike service dogs, she’s not there to open doors or those kinds of tasks; instead she’s trained to provide comfort and love.
Matt Nuttall said there are lots of things which can lead to a child’s ability to be successful, such as mental health concerns and trauma in the home. He explained Kimmy can create a “happy, warmer and better environment” for those kids. They can sit there and be comforted by her, he also noted some kids like to work on their reading skills and feel more comfortable reading to a dog than a person.
“Kimmy helps to create a happy warmer better environment for those kids and having an outlet for these kids. The kid can sit there and may feel more comfortable talking to the dog
Faith Nuttall hopes Kimmy will help students and staff know it is okay to not be okay and have hard feelings. She said there’s “just something” about the presence of a dog that, even though it doesn’t live with someone, provides unconditional support and provides love. A sentiment that Matt Nuttall has already seen first-hand.
“She loves anything that’s alive. On Friday when we brought her in. Before school started, I had a staff member came by my office and lay on the floor and just loved on her,” he said. “If that doesn’t make your day better at work, I don’t know what does.
“That’s what she’s there for, to make days better.”