Lizzie the therapy dog helps alleviate end-of-year stress at Lawrence High School

Share this post or save for later

On the last Monday morning of the school year at Lawrence High, the building is mostly quiet as bleary-eyed students and educators prepare for finals. Then Lizzie the therapy dog interacts with a human. Suddenly the space lights up.

Tenth graders Anesha Marshall and Dante Stubbs have stopped by teacher Molly Fuller’s classroom on their way to second period. They’re eager to give Lizzie a few quick scritches and a couple of chicken meatball treats.

“She’s adorable,” Anesha says. “I mean, it’s nice to see her in the morning. It makes your day better.”

Dante says Lizzie provides support and comfort at just the right time for him, even if it’s just a quick interaction after breakfast on Mondays or Fridays, Lizzie’s regular work days this semester.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Tenth graders Anesha Marshall, left, and Dante Stubbs, center, pay a visit to Lizzie the therapy dog and teacher Molly Fuller’s classroom on May 20, 2024 at Lawrence High School.

Four years ago, Lizzie joined Fuller during the onslaught of isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fuller’s father, who raises French bulldogs, offered the then-5-year-old “Liza Jane” to his daughter to help alleviate loneliness while Fuller taught Liberty Memorial Central Middle School students remotely.

“I joke that she’s young and she’s like, moved to the city and now she’s ‘Lizzie,’” Fuller says.

After Fuller returned to the physical building, she sought approval from administrators to bring Lizzie with her to work. The pair also attended classes at Wagmore Canine Enrichment to ensure Lizzie was up to the task. Students loved having Lizzie in the building, Fuller says.

Then two years ago, Fuller moved over to LHS, where she teaches history, civics and geography. Altogether, Fuller has taught a dozen years.

Lizzie sports a gold chain collar over a red and black LHS bandana. Her drip, as the youth would say, matches her personality. Even when students get loud, they can’t rile up Lizzie, according to Fuller.

“She’s so calm … I think she was born to be a therapy dog, because she’s just, she’s so chill,” Fuller says. “The only thing you know is, she will react to food. She’s very hungry all the time.”

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times

Fuller puts a couple of treats in her pocket and attaches Lizzie’s leash. It’s time to go to work.

Throughout the hallways and offices, Lizzie receives lots of pets, pats and hellos. Educators and students’ faces light up as the 9-year-old dog approaches.

In the gym, physical education teachers Adam Green and Taylor Stuart enthusiastically greet Lizzie and request a little therapy time.

Nearby, Kennedy Glasgow, a sophomore, and Harper Dye, a junior, vie for Lizzie’s attention, too.

“She’s a really loving dog and I think it’s nice that she’s like, not energetic and easy to approach,” Kennedy says.

Harper says this is a stressful time of the year for many students, and it helps to have Lizzie around.

“It’s nice to pet a dog,” Harper says. “It just makes everybody happy.”

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Lizzie’s fans form a half-circle around her as she spreads happiness to students and teachers at Lawrence High. They include, from left, Molly Fuller, Kennedy Glasgow, Harper Dye, Adam Green, Taylor Stuart and Laura Brensing.

Lizzie puts on a quick show. She sits, shakes hands and begs in exchange for treats before moving on to another part of the building.

Lizzie spreads some more happiness inside Mindy Dechant’s special education classroom.

“We love it when she comes. They get so happy and they’re really engaged,” Dechant says of her students. “I wish we had more therapy dogs.”

How many therapeutic animals are in place across the district is unknown, according to Lawrence Public Schools spokesperson Julie Boyle. Requests are approved by building administrators according to board policy. Other popular district therapy dogs, Boyle notes in her email, include Emily Boedecker’s Pedro at Woodlawn Elementary and Demetrius Kemp’s Wayne at Free State High School.

Fuller says students have shared with her Lizzie’s impact.

“I’ve had students see us in the hallway and say, ‘Oh, she’s here today, I’ll be on time to class,’” Fuller says.

This summer, Fuller and Lizzie will take lots of walks and maybe a trip or two. A few years ago, the pair road tripped all the way to Los Angeles to visit Fuller’s brother. Swimming, however, isn’t on Lizzie’s summer bucket list.

“I think Frenchies are too top heavy to swim very well, haha, so it makes her nervous,” Fuller says via email. “I waded into the Kaw with her after a long walk one time but she didn’t seem to enjoy that.”

Follow Lizzie’s adventures on her fan Instagram, @lizzie_rules.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Laura Bogart, center, and Lynisha Thomas, right, welcome Lizzie the therapy dog and her owner, Molly Fuller, to the office.
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times
Molly Adams / Lawrence Times
If our local journalism matters to you, please help us keep doing this work.
Don’t miss a beat … Click here to sign up for our email newsletters

Click here to learn more about our newsletters first

Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

Latest Lawrence news:


Previous Article

Obituary: Steven Walter Bell

Next Article

Kansas providers challenge new ‘abortion survey’ law in court