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Small dog making a big impact at Redmond school


Hercules, or “Herc,” was born with a cleft palate, meaning he has a large hole in the top of his mouth, making it extremely difficult for him to eat and drink. He’s 5 months old and he’s already overcome a tough start to life, with the help of his many friends.

His owner is the student services coordinator at Edwin Brown Education Center in Redmond. She started bringing him to school on day one, and now he has found a home with the students.

“No matter what kind of day they have, or even if he has a grumpy day, they can see that, and they all start at zero,” Student Services Coordinator Karen Mitchell said Wednesday. “That is something we try to embody here, because things happen, and we make choices, but we start at zero every minute of every day.”

Because he was bottle-fed, Hercules is small, even for a miniature Australian shepherd. His cleft palate causes him to sneeze often, drink from a rabbit-styled water bottle, and make odd noises from time to time, though that hasn’t taken away from his puppy-like personality.

“No matter what happens, Hercules comes back around, and he comes prancing down the halls, wanting someone to take him potty, run around outside or take him on a walk,” Mitchell said.

Hercules is a favorite among staff and students, and one of his new tricks is learning how to sing or howl along. His presence has encouraged students to bond with the staff and each other.

“It got to a point where we had regulars that were good at feeding him and I could say, ‘you know what, I need you to come in today because I cannot get him to eat, can you try?'” Mitchell said. “And he would eat for a student and not me.”

Now students and staff are working together to train him to be a therapy dog. He has to learn certain commands, remain calm around people and startling sounds, and even give up licking. All a work in progress for this little guy.

“He helps people when they are angry, sad or down,” said student Derrick Saunders. “I’ve had several blowouts here, when I was disappointed in something I did or someone that was annoying me, and I would just hang out with Herc.”

Mitchell said a big piece of what helped Hercules survive is the love and support from the students.

“He gives us a lot of good ideas,” said student Jayson Finuf. “And since me and Trent Donnelly are making a video game, I was thinking about putting him in somehow in some way. He inspired us to put him in our game and make him a character you can play as.”

For now, Hercules will continue to prance down the hallways, changing lives as he works to become a therapy dog.

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