Cumberland Academy of Georgia’s Beloved Therapy Dog, Haley, Has Died

Share Article

Students and faculty at Atlanta special-needs school, Cumberland Academy of Georgia, are grieving the loss of the school’s therapy dog, Haley, who recently died.

atlanta autism school
What’s interesting is that Asperger’s syndrome has been described by some incorrectly as a condition where people don’t show emotion. But we’ve seen just the opposite with Haley’s passing.

Cumberland Academy of Georgia’s beloved therapy dog, Haley, recently passed away, and students and faculty are grieving. The dog had been with the Atlanta-based special-needs school since its founding in 2007. No longer having Haley around will be an adjustment for the entire school.

“We broke the sad news to the students in small groups, and sent an email to parents to let them know,” explains Debbi Scarborough, founding director at Cumberland Academy of Georgia. “Our school counselors crafted a few sentences about Haley’s passing, and we gave this to each homeroom teacher to read to their classes. That way, all the students heard the same message.”

For special-needs students, the message about Haley needed to be worded in a specific way, Scarborough says, so they would understand exactly what has happened (for instance, “passing away” does not mean the same thing as “died,” to some of the students).

Once the students heard the news, they were given the opportunity to write or speak about Haley. “Several of the high school students wept openly,” Scarborough observes. “What’s interesting is that Asperger’s syndrome has been described by some incorrectly as a condition where people don’t show emotion. But we’ve seen just the opposite with Haley’s passing.”

More than anything, what Scarborough is seeing is the students showing an outgoing concern towards each other and towards teachers and administration. “After relaying the news about Haley, a number of students asked to come down to my office, and when they did, they hugged me and told me it would be okay,” she relates. “Another student came by my office after Haley had died, but he hadn’t heard the news and he wanted to know where Haley was. I told him she had died and that I was so sorry. He replied, ‘I like that we are all a community and holding on to each other. That’s what makes this school so special.’ And truly, while we very much miss Haley, it’s wonderful to see this bonding together.”

Haley’s toys and dog food will be donated to FurKids, Georgia’s largest no-kill animal shelter and rescue facility. “Not only is FurKids a very worthy charity, our students volunteer there, which makes it an great place to donate,” Scarborough says.

Cumberland Academy of Georgia will be starting a scholarship fund in Haley’s honor, as a way to help students, but also to remember this very special dog.

About Cumberland Academy of Georgia:
Cumberland Academy of Georgia specializes in the needs of students in grades 4 through 12 who have high-functioning autism, Asperger’s syndrome, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities. Cumberland was founded in 2007 by Debbi and Matthew Scarborough, and is a fully-accredited, independent, non-profit school that seeks to provide a safe and supportive academic atmosphere for its students. Cumberland accepts applications year-round. To schedule a family tour, please contact Terri Brooks, director of admissions, at 404-835-9000, or email admissions(at)cumberlandacademy(dot)org.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Deedra Hughes
Follow us on