News Flash — A mild-mannered superhero has joined the staff at the Crestwood School District. In case you missed the news, Clark Kent, a 19-week-old Silver Labrador Retriever, will join his Lois Lane, Nikki Johansen, helping with her work as a counselor at Crestwood Primary School in Mantua.
“Kids respond to dogs in amazing ways,” Johansen explained. “I am hoping his presence in my office will help the students feel more comfortable and happier in general. He also will serve as a positive behavioral incentive for the kiddos to earn some time with him.”
Johansen went on to describe the ways in which Clark will teach the students vital lessons, such as the ability to be a good listener, as well as the importance of caring for others, themselves and their school. She noted that students will be able to earn special rewards for positive behavior, such as walking the caped crusader down the halls, brushing him, or getting the opportunity to be his reading buddy.
“Often times, people feel more comfortable with a dog simply present in a room,” Johansen shared. “There is much research backing the fact that the simple presence of a dog can reduce anxiety, lower high blood pressure, improve social skills, and in general make people feel happier,” she beamed. “He is going to make me a better counselor for the kids at CPS,” she added.
This first year, much of Clark’s time will be spent with Johansen in her office, getting used to his new school schedule and working on the training the duo is undergoing to get Clark certified as a therapy dog. Right now, Clark is working on basic puppy training and getting lots of socialization with all ages. Johansen explained that eventually, Clark will be certified as a licensed therapy dog, which usually happens when a dog is eight-months to a year old.
No stranger to the concept of therapy dogs, Johansen and her family trained a total of eight service dogs throughout her childhood in the Columbus area. She was excited to bring that expertise to CPS. She found Clark through online research, where she spent hours searching for reputable Labrador puppies with calm temperaments and sweet dispositions. “I found the perfect pup!” she gushed. Johansen drove to Kentucky to pick him up the week after school ended in May, and the two have been inseparable ever since. As for super powers, according to Johansen, Clark has many. “He has the most loving eyes. When he looks at you, you feel like he understands everything you are thinking and feeling.” Which is an ideal quality, given the mild-mannered pup’s new occupation.
Since students will be meeting Clark for the first time very soon, the Daily Planet, (AKA Weekly Villager) was granted permission for an exclusive interview with the young hero. Here’s what the pup of steel had to say:
When asked about his favorite part of the day, Clark answered, “When I get to learn something new and practice all the tricks I already know.” Some of those tricks include speaking, sitting, rolling over, heeling, and shaking ‘paws’. “I LOVE any part of my day that involves yummy treats,” Clark added. “I also love napping after a good playtime.” He’s still a baby, after all, so naps are very important.
His favorite person isn’t a big surprise; it’s his ‘mom’, Johansen. “I follow her around so much that she always trips on me! I especially love it when my mom and I go visit her parents; they spoil me and have three dogs of their own so I get to play a lot when we go there!” he added, wagging his tail for emphasis.
As far as favorite things to eat, Clark had this to say, “In a perfect world I would be allowed to chew on all my mom’s shoes. They are so yummy and feel good on my teeth, but any time she catches me with one she says no’ and takes them away!” he shared, bewildered. “I thought that was why they came in pairs — one for each of us. How could something so yummy not be allowed?” Of the mom-approved snacks,” he explained, “my favorites are peanut butter or hotdogs, which mom gives me when I do an especially good job with something.”
It’s no surprise that Clark Kent’s favorite superhero is Superman. “He’s my absolute favorite! When I’m bigger, I hope I can help as many people as he does!”
Clark has spent lots of time at CPS, as his mom, teachers, and the rest of the staff work to get the building ready for students’ return. When asked what it’s like to be at school during the summertime, he shared, “It’s really quiet. I usually just take a nap in my mom’s office or Mrs. Ducca’s office while my mom does work,” he explained. “But I have gotten to meet a number of new people, and even some parents and kids,” he beamed, “That makes me even more excited to start the school year!” he marveled. “And I can’t wait to play with kids,” he added, wagging for emphasis. “Sometimes, I hear the sound of a kid’s voice on tv and I stop everything I’m doing to watch them — they just make me so happy!”
When asked how he can help students have a great school year, Clark shared, “I am really good at making people smile. Sometimes I just sit and turn my head at a silly or new noise and it makes everyone in the room laugh and smile. And when people smile, it helps them feel calmer. He concluded, “I guess my superpower is being able to sense when someone has an upset feeling and help them turn that mood around to a happy feeling.” He added, “I also LOVE when kids practice their reading skills with me! I make a really good tutor for kids who might want extra practice.”
When asked for his weakness, or kryptonite, Clark shuddered, describing the time his mom accidentally dropped a lemon slice. “It looked so bright and tasty, I just had to try it. I WON’T be making that mistake again, that’s for sure!”
As the interview came to an end, Clark wanted CPS kids and their families to know that he’s honored to become a part of the CPS family and the Crestwood community. He explained that since he’s still a baby and learning everyday, having patience is important since everything is so new. He’s got a Twitter account where he’ll tweet updates on his work as a canine counselor — follow @CanineSuperman to see his latest adventures.