Puppy Love: North Cache mascot comes to life through Miss. Tilly the Bulldog
In June of last year, the living North Cache mascot was born. “Miss Tilly” the Bulldog is being raised to be a service dog that will provide companionship and joy to students and staff at North Cache Middle School. She began her service at the school in September of 2019 and currently attends school on a random basis. Tilly is being trained to help students feel calm around animals, lessen stress and anxiety, and be a living, breathing mascot for the school.
Tilly’s owner is 7th- and 8th-grade science teacher Marla Trowbridge. Even before Tilly came on the scene, Trowbridge’s classroom was well-known for its collection of different species of animals. Bringing Tilly into the classroom was Trowbridge’s idea: she pitched it to school administrators when they were looking for a way to support kids who struggle with depression or anxiety at school.
“Many students don’t know how to deal with stress or anxiety and they are very electronics-focused,” Trowbridge explained. “I went to the school administration and said ‘our school mascot is a bulldog! The easiest way to eliminate some stress is to get a dog.’ ”
After receiving approval from the administration, Trowbridge bought Tilly and has taken responsibility for her care and meticulous training. Tilly is washed every day before she comes to school to reduce any allergen issues, and students know that they should ask for permission before they pet her. At home, Tilly is able to relax and play with the Trowbridge’s other animals, but at school, she is on her best behavior. Even though she's still a puppy, she is quiet and extremely well-mannered.
It’s not surprising that Tilly is a big hit with students. When she visits North Cache, Trowbridge takes her to the commons area in the morning to greet the kids. Throughout the day, students stop by Trowbridge’s classroom to say hello and give her a friendly pat on the head or even a hug.
Mrs. Trowbridge’s daughter, Katharine, who is also a student at North Cache, understands the importance of the bulldog to the well being of her peers. “One of the cool things about having her in the classroom with the kids is that she helps bring down a lot of anxiety and depression,” she shared. “Tilly can really help with improving grades and getting kids more used to coming to school.” Another student, Ella, said, “I think it is really cool because now we know how to act around animals. She is really nice and calm.”
Tilly not only benefits students but is also beloved by many of the teachers, who appreciate her calming presence. “Tilly has become a superstar among the students and staff!” exclaimed Wyndde Whittier, North Cache’s 7th Grade language arts teacher. “Often, after a hard day at school, my spirits are lifted when Tilly comes into my room. All it takes is her friendly demeanor to make me feel good. I know a lot of students benefit from Tilly in the same way.”
Trowbridge believes that kids need more empathy, which Tilly is able to help bring into students’ lives. “We have lost a lot of connections because of electronics; there are a lot less face-to-face conversations. But empathy--when you fall in love with an animal or care about an animal enough that when you lose that animal you’re sad-- that is a very powerful thing. You teach students to be respectful of life. You teach them how to handle life well.”