Prospect loses 'golden girl'

   By Miranda Holloway
   Executive Online Editor

From the moment that Dandy, a petite Golden Retriever, stepped on         Prospect’s campus for the first time in 2004 she was out to prove    herself. She was brought in by Dean Dr. Patricia Tedaldi-Monti to check the school for drugs, alcohol and other contraband that could be a threat to school safety. Dandy was brought in as an alternative to the aggressive  police dogs that had searched the school in the past. She had to show that     her program worked.

    Sadly, the tail wagging, drug sniffing dog passed away at  11 years old last week after a quick battle with aggressive cancer that affected her heart.
    “It surprised all of us to say the least,” handler and owner Glenn VandeBonCoeur said.
     VandeBonCoeur and the golden worked at many different schools in the south suburbs such as the Lincoln-Way district and schools in the north like Barrington  and Stevenson . Prospect was the first public school in Illinois to use the program.
  “Her name fit her perfectly, she was quite a dandy. She just had a funny personality and I think that she was a good ambassador for that kind of program,” Tedaldi – Monti said “She was not a snarling, scary German Shepherd. She was the friendly, golden girl.”
As a hard worker with a kind personality,  Dandy made an impression on students and administration alike. Due to this positive relationship, she was welcomed to Prospect with open arms and enjoyed coming here in particular.
    “She knew certain schools and you could tell,” VandeBonCoeur said. “She was just universally loved here.”
    Dandy had become a staple in the school. In her working days, she made stops in sophomore health classes and sitting in the halls during passing periods. Often students would stop and ask VandeBonCoeur if they could say hello. In time, she built herself into the student body.
    “I joke sometimes. You’d see her out there with all the girls and be like ‘great another blonde  hanging out with the girls’ because she fit in with them,” VandeBonCoeur said. “She had no clue sometimes that she was a dog. She was one of the students in the hallway, too.”
  Part of her love for the school environment was her love for people and wanting to help them. After her retirement she worked in the counselor’s office calming distressed students and keeping them company while letting them pet her to lower their blood pressure, a transition that came naturally,  according to counselor Dr. Lynn Thornton.
  “If you walked in and if we were just going to talk about your schedule she would sit and nudge her way toward you and maybe you aren’t even upset and….  kids would just embrace her,” Thornton said.
She was all business when she was on the job, but her personality still shined through. VandeBonCoeur recalls a particular time when Dandy had found a substance in a student’s locker that stands out of showing the good sides of both of Dandy’s jobs.
“There was a girl [who] was caught and sat in the office and said that even though Dandy caught her she still loved her,” VandeBonCoeur said. “Dogs aren’t judgmental so you are not a bad kid. Dogs just universally love everybody. She was good at that.”
    Along with the connection she had with people at the school,  Dandy also enjoyed working at school was that she was she was “in the spotlight,” according to VandeBonCoeur.
    “Dandy was a drama queen. She had to show off,” VandeBonCoeur said. “She would be walking down the halls with her paws up and her tail going like a queen in her castle. She did her job with a lot of flare.”
    VandeBonCoeur recalls how she would know when she had done a good job. Dandy knew when she had had a good find by the look on her face.
    Dandy had that look quite often at the beginning of her time at Prospect, but as time went on she found less and less contraband in the halls. Her constant presence made students more careful of their actions at school.
    “When she first came here she would find a lot of stuff in the halls and the last couple years kids know that you don’t bring drugs and alcohol to school, you just don’t do it,” Tedaldi- Monti said.
Her job was twofold; her official job was to keep the school safe,the second was to lend a non-judgemental paw and loving air to the room.
    Since her passing, VandeBonCoeur had been thinking about her legacy and thought back to a presentation that he and Dandy had made at an elementary school. One child had asked whether or not Dandy had saved any lives. VandeBonCoeur’s initial thought was to tell him that that was not her job, but he had to back track.
“I thought about how many kids who have gone for help over the years that Dandy has found issues with. They’ve gone to rehab,  they’ve gone to counseling. I wonder how many of those kids, we’ll never know that number, that she’s helped out,” VandeBonCoeur said.
He also thinks of the kids who may have become involved in drugs had they been exposed to them at school.
 “It’s the number that we’ll never know that really [make] that’s dog’s legacy,” VandeBonCoeur said.
    Her spirit of hard work and love was one that was not lost on the students she help or on VandeBonCouer. Her unbiased and constant affection both on the job sniffing for drugs, in the counselor’s office or greeting kids in the halls was a very special combination that allowed her to have and an  influence on everyone she met.
“That dog probably did more good things for people than a lot of humans in the world have done for each other,” VandeBonCoeur said.