Kindergarten students giggle and wave as they watch Pancake move his paws and “woof” with the help of School Resource Officer Chad Dodson.
Pancake is a stuffed animal dog that Dodson brings to Lascassas Elementary School to entertain students.
Dodson introduced the stuffed dog to communicate with the kindergarten through 5th grade students since COVID limits his time with them.
“All the kids, K-5th grade love seeing him,” Dodson said.
The students asked the stuffed animal’s name.
“I thought of one of my favorite foods, pancakes, and decided to name him Pancake,” Dodson said.
Principal Kim Marable said Pancake has become a “rock star.”
“It creates some normalcy,” Marable said. “It creates a bright spot throughout the day.”
Dodson said Pancake has become a fixture at the school. He calms upset students, plays peek-a-boo, visits at recess and helps patrol the parking lot where he visits with parents.
“Pancake also believes in wearing masks,” Dodson said. “When kids ask why he is wearing a mask, I tell them he said that if they had to, he wanted to wear one. I try to match with Pancake by wearing the same mask. The masks are some that I had made with dogs on them to be kid friendly.”
Third-grader Emma Maxwell said she likes the way Dodson waves with Pancake’s paw.
“Pancake makes me feel better about wearing a mask,” Emma said. “Pancake is a really good dog and I want him to stay here so other people can enjoy him.”
Fourth-grader Christopher Romans said he wishes Pancake could dress up as a real pancake.
First-grader Shiloh Trower likes it when Pancake dresses up in costumes.
Kindergarten student Anna Duggin wants Pancake to wear a Santa costume.
To support school activities, Pancake and Dodson coordinated with teacher Marianne Chumley by encouraging students to donate to the school’s annual food drive.
Dodson pledged if they met their goal of 2,855, he would eat dog food. He did. If they doubled the goal, Dodson would have his fingernails and toe nails painted. He did. If they tripled the goal, Dodson would have his head painted. He did.
If they collected more than 12,000 cans, Pancake and Dodson would serve pancakes for breakfast.
The students collected 13,340 cans of food for Greenhouse Ministries that will be used to feed hungry Rutherford County residents.
Marable reported Pancake pumped up the children to give food so Dodson would dress up like Pancake and they could eat pancakes for breakfast.
SRO Capt. Brad Harrison, Lt. Brian Wright and Sgt. Casey McClure helped Dodson and Pancake serve pancakes for breakfast Nov. 6 at the school. Dodson ate canned dog food.
“If they can laugh and smile over Pancake, it’s worth it all,” Dodson said.
For school announcements, teacher Alexis Derryberry shows photos of Pancake’s adventures on his days off where he skis, fishes on fall break, works on his car and gets his hair done. For Pancake’s makeover, they substituted another stuffed animal.
“The kids were not happy with that one,” Dodson said.
Dodson’s next goal is to collaborate with teachers to write and publish a book about Pancake coming to school during COVID.
“With all the negativity and hate in the world, I would also like for it to cover why we need to respect and be kind to one another,” Dodson said.