Yes, we know the Muffin dog

Bring a treat if you visit the counseling center


Angel Luo

Muffin visits with one of her best friends, senior Emily Sorg.

Angel Luo, Reporter

Most 4-year-olds, if they are in school at all, spend their days napping, coloring and, for some, crying.

The 4-year-old who comes to this campus every day is able to achieve only one of those three tasks, but possesses other skills.

Muffin, the therapy dog who spends his days walking around the school and returning to her home base in the counseling center, will turn 4 on July 20.

According to counselor Mrs. Mary Hemer, and Muffin’s human mother, Muffin has provided emotional support and served as a patient friend. To everyone, Muffin is as sweet as her name, which came from the pet name, “Snuggle Muffin,” given to Hemer by her sister from their childhood. Hemer’s sister moved to London when Muffin first became a part of Mrs. Hemer’s family, so the name “Muffin” also included love from Hemer to her sister.

From just sitting by people and gently setting her head on people’s laps, Muffin is able to bring calmness and happiness to almost anyone, cat people included. Muffin loves sitting on the couch in Hemer’s office, especially with her friends. “Sometimes she claims her spot on the couch, and sometimes she is so excited that she flies onto the couch,” Hemer said.

During an interview between a reporter and Hemer, Muffin tilted her head and showed some signs of confusion when being called “silly” by Hemer. Recalling some observations of Muffin’s humorous actions when interacting with people, Hemer acknowledged Muffin’s natural ability of making one laugh.

Most importantly, Hemer believes that Muffin offers people “breaks” during long days. “She offers a retreat from whatever you are thinking about or worrying about, even for just a few minutes spending time with her,” she said. Besides being a playmate, Hemer also said that one of Muffin’s future goals is to work toward a certification for being therapy dog. Just like every student in Indiana who is tortured by the ISTEP, she will need to pass specific testing in order to earn the recognition.

Hemer showed that Muffin has developed skills when it comes to treats. She is able to sit, lie prone, watch and wait until she receives the signal of permission to touch the treats. However, except for these skills, Hemer said Muffin has learned “scrounging” for food from students and other counselors who spoil her.

Ms. Kathy Pivonka, who appears to be Muffin’s favorite counselor, always gives her not only hugs, but also peanut butter as a treat. Being a “dog mom,” Hemer said the difficulties to keep Muffin with her at work are the need to periodically take Muffin outside and to look for her when she wanders off down the hallway. But Hemer has solved these problems by setting alarms on her phone to remind herself to check on Muffin.

When being asked about who Muffin’s favorite student is, Hemer thinks it would very well could be junior Brendan McDonnell. According to Hemer, he often visits Muffin during flex and lunch time and snuggles with Muffin.

Belly rubs are one of Muffin’s favorites from McDonnell, and playing toys is both of their favorite activity with each other. When being asked about what Muffin has helped him the most, McDonnell said, “Definitely taking away the stress. It feels so good hanging out with her and it just makes it so much better when I have a stressful day.

Veronica Newton, a frequent visitor in the counselor’s’ office, said, “She’s been around to comfort me. It’s always relaxing to pet her. She is cute and soft and fluffy.”

Another good buddy of Muffin’s, senior Joshua Hall, said he thinks Muffin is both adorable and helpful. “When you’re stressed, Muffin helps you cope with the stress, especially before taking tests.”

Senior Francie Cardenas also appreciates Muffin’s help to the student body. “She is very cute. People really like dogs. Usually people see her and they get happy. I get happy when I see her, too. I think it’s her vibes that she can provide love and feel people’s love,” she said.

Senior Emily Sorg, one of Muffin’s best girlfriends, also thinks the best way to calm down and destress is just simply petting Muffin. “I love to sit on the floor in Mrs. Hemer’s office and play with her pink squeaky pig toy or just sit on the couch and give her belly rubs” is what Sorg said she likes to do with Muffin on a daily basis.

She also said if Muffin is able to interpret human language, she would like to ask, “What’s the best thing about being a dog or what is it like to be a dog.”

From most people’s opinion, Muffin is both a helpful peer and a sincere listener, and research has proved that petting a dog and interacting with it does lower blood pressure and provide a calming influence on those who are stressed. When tragedies such as school shootings occur, therapy dogs are brought to campus to help those who have been affected.

But it doesn’t take a tragedy or even a bad day to find an excuse to visit Muffin. Hemer said, “Muffin gives the best hugs and kisses. (You) should come see her.”