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Crisis Response Dog to Bring Calm, Support to Marietta City Schools Students

Marietta City Schools (MCS), the Marietta Police Department, and the Marietta Schools Foundation are thrilled to introduce Barney, a crisis response canine and the district’s newest team member. Barney will be a valuable resource in enhancing mental health and providing emotional and sensory support for students in need.

“Barney’s introduction to our schools marks a new chapter in our ongoing commitment to fostering a supportive and nurturing environment for our students,” said Superintendent Grant Rivera. “We believe Barney’s presence will help students build resilience and create a sense of belonging, making our schools even better places to learn and grow.”

The collaboration between MCS, the City of Marietta Police Department (MPD), and the Marietta Schools Foundation brought the dog to MCS, thanks to the support of private donations. Barney was carefully chosen from Assistance Dogs of the West, a distinguished organization known for breeding, training, and placing dogs like Barney. There he received intensive training by using a compassionate training model that helps facilitate the deepest possible bond between humans and animals. This allows Barney to read human reactions and respond appropriately to the human’s emotional needs. Barney learned up to 90 commands before he arrived in Marietta. 

The canine will work alongside MPD Officer Paul Hill, MCS’s elementary school resource officer. Officer Hill will utilize Barney’s skills for various functions, including calming children experiencing behavioral or emotional concerns.

Barney and Officer Hill will be based out of Park Street Elementary School and will travel between all the MCS elementary schools, serving students every day. Older students also will occasionally get the opportunity to interact with this special dog.

“Our students come to school and can’t wait to see Barney in the halls,” said Park Street Principal Alex Soto. “We have already seen the difference Barney makes when he enters a room. His presence is not only comforting for children in distress, but also provides a sense of security and calm to all our students.”

Canines like Barney have been shown to help reduce anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms. Their presence can also lower blood pressure and heart rate, promoting overall well-being for those they interact with.

This collaboration between MCS, MPD, and the Marietta Schools Foundation highlights the importance of community partnerships in Marietta, creating meaningful change and additional support for students in the district.

“I am excited about our addition of Barney as a new approach to address children in crisis,” said Marietta Police Chief Marty Ferrell. “SRO Hill has a proven track record of working with youth in our city schools, and I believe that giving him this new specially trained K9 partner will have a dynamic impact on his ability to quickly and calmly resolve otherwise challenging situations."

Donations to support Barney and his work with MCS students can be made here by selecting Canine Crisis Response Program.