Avesta resident and his dog give helping paw to local schoolchildren

When school is in session at Central School in South Berwick, Maine, you are likely to find Bill Glass and his Golden Retriever, Layla, visiting the classrooms. Bill reads to the students (grades pre-K to 3) while Layla offers up her belly or ears for a good petting. In technical terms, they provide therapeutic emotional support. In plain terms, they enjoy the kids’ company, and vice versa.

Bill and Layla live next door to the school at Young Street Apartments, an Avesta Housing affordable housing community for older adults. When classes are in session, they sit outside and greet students and their parents during the mornings and afternoons. They are such a familiar presence that Layla has been issued her very own school ID badge.

“I’ve always loved kids,” Bill said. “I don’t have any grandchildren, so this gives me a chance to interact with them. They are so much fun to talk to.”

Bill, 76, is a Coast Guard veteran and a retired marketing and sales director who moved from Florida to Maine seven years ago to be near his two adult children.

Bill welcomed Layla, a rescue dog, into his home a year ago, and they soon began to visit classrooms together. She has passed the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen course and is in the process of being certified as a therapy dog. During the holidays, children from Central School sang carols to Bill and Layla and donated handmade ornaments for a Christmas tree that Bill displayed near the back entrance to Young Street Apartments.

For Bill, the greatest satisfaction comes from watching the smiles on the kids’ faces when they see Layla, and how she is able to bring some of them out of their shells. “When I first started doing it, a couple of the kids wouldn’t even talk to me,” he said. “By the end of that first class, they were sitting next to me with the dog.”