Posted on May 28, 2022

Representatives of The Birmingham Rotary Club presented the Birmingham Public Schools (BPS) with a $20,000 check from its Endowment Fund for acquisition, training and placement of two additional therapy dogs at the BPS Board meeting on Tuesday May 24.  The Birmingham Rotary Club's Mental Health Committee member, Dr. Daniel Ryan presented the check to the BPS Board after introductions from Superintendent Embekka Roberson and Program Manager, William Pugh.  

The Birmingham Rotary Club's Mental Health committee promotes positive mental health initiatives and advocacy primarily focused on children in their development years.

Mr. Pugh stated that the District is interested in obtaining a full-time therapy dog at each of the District's school buildings.  With Birmingham Rotary's current commitment, now all middle schools will have a therapy dog.  Birmingham Rotary's Endowment Fund had previously funded the acquisition, training and placement of a therapy dog at Berkshire Middle School.  The two new therapy dogs will be placed at Derby Middle School and Birmingham Covington School.  Mr. Pugh indicated the continued interest in working with Birmingham Rotary on helping with the remaining schools in the District. 

The therapy dog for Berkshire Middle School is currently involved in training.  The school held a dog naming contest, and the name "Snickers" was selected.  Snickers is expected to begin working in the Fall of 2022 after achieving therapy dog accreditation.

Mr. Pugh added that BPS partners with 4PawzStrong in Brighton to purchase and train the therapy dogs to be used exclusively in BPS schools.  Even due to the very high demand for therapy dogs, 4PawzStrong is currently able to secure two dogs from litters expected by the end of August of 2022.  The dogs would then be under the care of 4PawzStrong’s training program, which is a partnership with a local veterans organization.  Once the puppies are ready, they would begin their full training regimen and work up to full AKC certification as a therapy dog. The anticipated date for that certification would be August of 2023 when it would be turned over to a host family and begin acclimating to the host family and the school where it will work. If the dogs are responsive and ready, they could be working in the school by October of next year (2023).

Snickers was funded in 2021 by Birmingham Rotary's Endowment Fund.  Funds for the two additional therapy dogs were raised at Birmingham Rotary Club's Master Gala held in March 2022.  Annually, the Club raises funds that are distributed to noteworthy projects in the community and internationally.  Dr. Ryan expressed his hope that the community would take notice of Birmingham Rotary's efforts and look at the other awesome things the Club does and consider joining.  Check their website at

From Left to Right, John Westerheide (Rotary Board), Dr. Daniel Ryan (Rotary Therapy Dog Program Lead), Linda Hatfield (Rotary Board). Marsha Kovacs (In-coming Rotary Club President), Bill Pugh (BPS Therapy Dog Project Lead), Marla Otterbacher (Derby Middle School Principal), and Courtney Bassett (BCS teacher).
Snickers (BPS service dog - Berkshire Middle School).