SELAH, Wash. - Students at Selah Middle School are saying goodbye to Bernese Mountain Dog and unofficial school mascot Benny Thomas.
"Benny has empowered students to savor their young heart," school district officials said in a news release.
For the past six years, Benny has served as the school's therapy dog; he has his own I.D. badge and an employee photo on the Selah Middle School website.
Educators say while Benny may not have led math lessons or taught reading and writing, he has taught students how to be gentle, how to give and accept love, and how to show empathy.
"But, above all, Benny has proven that everyone matters," district officials said. " He didn't just mingle with the ‘coolest,' or ‘smartest.' He has love for everyone and it is genuine."
Now, after more than half a decade making students smile and being a friend to all, Benny is saying goodbye to the kids to whom he's brought so much joy.
"Benny has not been at school much lately," district officials said. "His health has prevented him from being at the place he loves most; with kids."
Due to those health issues, district officials say Benny will not be coming back.
However, administrators say even Benny's absence serves to teach one last lesson: "to find happiness in granted moments, long or short, and, when the time comes, accept life; whatever it brings; and move forward."
Administrators say Benny has buried "bones" — lessons and memories and feelings — buried in the hearts of everyone whose lives he has touched.
"And, somewhere along life's path, when thought to be out of mind, we will find one of Benny's bones—the lessons he has sweetly provided us," district officials said.
In Benny's spirit, educators say they will remember unconditional love and unprejudiced kindness; how to treat others, show compassion, and exhibit empathy.
"And, how to be an unwavering friend who makes everyone feel they matter," district officials said. "It will be substantiation that Benny is always at his post, always here."
Benny, educators say, could always detect when someone needed a friend; he'd sniff out who needed a visit or the comforting look of sweet puppy eyes.
"It seems so insignificant to say that Benny Thomas is just a dog....but he has the ‘bones' to prove it," district officials said. " And, he has left them hidden; buried deep within our hearts. That is why we love him."
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