Tough paw prints to fill: Former Falling Branch Elementary therapy dog sets the ‘bark’ for a new one

A new furry friend is helping students as a calming presence at Falling Branch Elementary School

Students at one Montgomery County school will have extra support from a helper that enjoys belly-rubs and lots of treats

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. – Students at Falling Branch Elementary School will be treated with the newest four-legged companion this Friday.

Summer the golden retriever is ready to continue the hard work that another golden retriever, Lyle, did for so many years.

Nina Templeton, whom students call ‘Lyle’s mom’, knew that when Lyle passed away the students would need a new dog to fill his paw prints.

“Well … Lyle kind of did it all,” Templeton said. “He somehow knew how to deal with each person and when I watched him at school, he was different with every kid.”

Lyle passed away in July after a battle with cancer, and Templeton said he had one final wish.

“Lyle wanted me to get another golden retriever to take care of me and to take care of his kids at Falling Branch,” Templeton said.

Templeton reached out to a friend, who is a dog breeder. When she told him that she wanted a dog that would be able to go to the elementary school, she was introduced to Sheena.

Templeton would later change Sheena’s name to Summer and said that the new name is special to the Falling Branch community.

“Summer Cox Chong is our librarian at school who Lyle loved. She is kind of the golden retriever of people. She loves everybody and everybody loves her,” Templeton said.

Summer and Templeton will visit the elementary school twice a week, giving students the chance to see their furry friend the moment they are dropped off at school.

Lyle did the job incredibly for years – He was always loved in the community, so much so that the staff at Falling Branch Elementary are keeping his memory alive through a plaque given to the school by New River Engraving.

With students back in the classroom, they won’t see the same dog they are so used to seeing. The transition can be somewhat difficult to explain to young children, so Templeton, along with an art teacher, put together a video to help start the conversation about these events.

“Summer just adores kids and she seems to be fine being mobbed by multiple kids at once, so I’m confident she’s going to be up for the job,” Templeton said. “I’m very hopeful that the kids are going to be accepting of summer because that’s what I know Lyle would want.”

About the Author:

Connor Dietrich joined the 10 News team in June 2022. Originally from Castle Rock, Colorado, he's ready to step away from the Rockies and step into the Blue Ridge scenery.