Aiden Wilkins, an incoming senior holds Tilly, a therapy dog Tuesday morning, June 11, in the F wing hallway at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington. Tilly visits the school once a week with teacher and owner Dr. Patricia Millette seen kneeling at right. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

FARMINGTON — During a change in classes Tuesday morning, June 11, the constantly moving flow of students making their way through the F wing at Mt. Blue High School was frequently interrupted as time was taken to greet Tilly, a therapy dog owned by science teacher Dr. Patricia Millette.

Some students gave a quick brush over the dog’s back before moving on. Others crouched down beside her to give more extensive pats while talking to her. A few used both hands to connect with Tilly while one student went so far as to pick her up, cuddle and hug her as his face lit up with a huge grin.

Students in Millette’s class shared what they like about Tilly being in class.

“Tilly is a good kind of distraction, something cute to look forward to,” one said.

“It definitely reduces stress, makes for a more relaxed environment,” another noted.

“She is very friendly,” a third stated.


Incoming sophomore Alexis Lane greets therapy dog Tilly Tuesday morning, June 11, while science teacher Dr. Patricia Millette looks on in the F wing hallway at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington. Tilly visits the school once a week, is a good kind of distraction, one student said. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

“In the 1990s, my second sheltie I had was registered with therapy dogs,” Millette said. “I used to bring him in to visit with severely handicapped students. I did that for several years with various dogs. Then the year after COVID-19 hit, I approached Monique Poulin [principal] about bringing dogs in once a week.”

To become a therapy dog there is a lot of training required. Millette’s dogs are certified through Therapy Dogs International. The program won’t take dogs until they are two years old, you can’t just bring a puppy, she said.

Dogs go through regular training then specific training for therapy. TDI uses the American Kennel Club Good Citizen program as a guide, adds things to that, Millette noted.

“To become certified they will drop something loud nearby [so it doesn’t startle the dog],” she said. “The dog goes with a person, you leave the room, has to sit three to five minutes with a stranger until given the OK to go. The dog can’t whine.”

Incoming sophomore Leah Merrill pats Tilly Tuesday morning, June 11, between classes at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, Dr. Patricia Millette at right is a science teacher, brings her therapy dog with her once a week. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

During the class changeover, Millette said the dogs are trained to not shake hands, to not lick people’s faces.

Some students visit while in the hall, others go out of their way to find Tilly, she noted. “The last girl that was here she will find us, hug the dog, say “This made my day.” It is kind of cool.”


Millette had another dog she brought to school with her before he passed away last fall. “He was smaller, could be picked up more, hang out with somebody on their desk,” she stated.

Tilly also helps students with their schoolwork. Last year an exchange student felt her English wasn’t that good, Millette said. “When she had to read a book out loud in class she read to the dog,” she noted. “Kids who need to practice a concept they will be presenting use the dog to practice on.”

Tilly is 10, began coming to school with Millette at two, has been coming constantly for the last four years. Her presence makes a difference. “Monique said the dog brings the temperature down at school, nobody yells,” she stated.

Millette has had five therapy dogs. When asked why, she said, “It is kind of fun, people really enjoy it.”

She used to take dogs to Franklin Memorial Hospital but that has stopped. “I have doctors and nurses come up to me and say they miss having the therapy dogs. Once I had a dog in the Intensive Care Unit, a patient had just died. Family members handed the dog from one person to another. I know it makes a difference.”

Millette continued, “It definitely makes a difference for some kids here. The dog is so nonthreatening. I have never had a kid express concern.”

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