Hugo, the first school facility dog at Woodland Elementary, poses for a photo with his trainer, intervention specialist Brittney Murphy, left, and Nikki Ohms, school counselor.

PERRYSBURG — Wear pajamas to school or spend time with Hugo?

Time with the Woodlands Elementary school facility dog, in 5-minute blocks, is the most popular Jacket Way award ticket.

Students are given the tickets to “spend” on incentive rewards like erasers or intangibles, like wearing PJs to school, or time with Hugo.

Hugo, a 2-year-old yellow Labrador, has been working with the students at Woodland Elementary school since September, and recently had his 100th Jacket Award visit.

Hugo is part of an effort by Perrysburg Schools to put facility dogs in each school. The program officially started in Perrysburg in 2019 and there have been facility dogs in the high school and junior high.

“Hugo is full of love,” said Brittney Murphy, intervention specialist for students with special needs at Woodland Elementary and Hugo’s trainer. “This is usually him. He is very chill. The students see Hugo as a friend.”

Murphy said that the Ability Center in Toledo provides the dogs and trainers.

A school facility dog isn’t a therapy dog. The school facility dogs go through a lot more training, part of which is still on-going, for the remainder of the school year, Murphy said.

“They are not just here providing therapy for kids and staff. They are here providing that mental health component, that social emotional component, as well as an academic component. He participants in academic lessons, he participates in teaching students to self-regulate their emotions,” Murphy said.

School facility dogs are also full-time members of the staff. Hugo is there every day, just like the teachers.

He has had a growing role at the school. Aside from being fun and cute, he seems to be universally loved by the students, he is right there in the lessons with the kids, providing a range of supports for both kids and staff.

Hugo is very much a part of the staff. He has his own email address, his photo is in the 2022-23 composite staff photo and he’s featured in the yearbook.

He regularly greets and helps kids who might have a difficult time getting out of the car, or school bus, in the morning, because of shyness or other reasons.

Murphy and Nikki Ohms, school counselor, said that it would be safe to say that all 580 students in the kindergarten to fourth grade school know Hugo. His day is scheduled in half-hour blocks working in classrooms. Kids do reading and math lessons with him.

To celebrate his birthday, he received handmade birthday letters from every student in the building, and those are collected in a binder, that is sometimes part of reading activities.

He came in very handy back in September. There was a lockdown, due to suspicious activity around the school. It was a false alarm, but for about an hour, Hugo helped calm everyone down.

“His role was huge,” Ohms said. “He was with the fourth graders, and they know more about what is going on. After that, we took him around to all the rest of the classrooms to visit with kids. Kids were sad and obviously their emotions were very high. It was amazing to see the kids just calm down a lot.”

Murphy took over the job of training school facility dogs from Karen Bade, a reading specialist from Toth Elementary, who trained school facility dogs for 20 years before her retirement.

Hugo is still in training for the rest of the year, and then he will be placed with his forever school.

Murphy urges the students and faculty not to worry.

“There will be another dog next year,” she said.