Therapy dogs provide comfort to students

Therapy dog Gunny was brought into classrooms by handler Robert Blum for the first time on March 15. Therapy dogs are dogs with specialized training to have the level of ability to be an emotional support.

To provide comfort and support to students, assistant principal Michelle Noga and school counselor Nicole Trout plan to bring therapy dogs into the school for students to spend time with. 

Being able to see a therapy dog, to pet it, smile and laugh brings comfort to the people in the school as they walk the hallways. 

According to Trout, therapy dogs are trained to provide affection, comfort and support to people in places such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes. 

“It’s like an emotional support animal, a comfort if they’re having a rough day, like a stress relief, bringing their anxiety down,” counselor assistant Rebecca Shellenberger said.

Noga and Trout have already observed the type of “positive impact” the dog had in hallways. 

“Our goal is to provide something uplifting for students and staff,” Noga said. 

This program first began when a grandparent of some of the students contacted the school and said he would love to bring his two therapy dogs to the building. 

            After bringing the dogs in, handler Robert Blum believed the students were very “impressed.” 

             Gunny, the dog that was brought into classes in March, seemed to be “loyal” according to Shellenberger.

           “The dog that we’ve brought in, Gunny, was very, very calm, very well-behaved [and] adapted well to all the different students,” Trout said

“I feel like 90% of the students that walked by, [Gunny] brought a smile to their faces,” Trout said. “They asked if they could pet the dog and asked the dog’s name. We ended up scheduling two classes; the kids really seemed engaged.”

Blum planned to have another visit with his therapy dogs Jima and Gunny on April 21. 

` Noga and Trout are finding different agencies that have volunteers that can bring therapy dogs in. 

They hope to be able to start with visits a few times a month, then eventually more frequently in the next year or two. 

Noga hopes that at times such as testing periods, the dogs could help students relax. 

           “If we could have it more frequently, during things like Keystones and finals when people are a little more stressed, having a chance as you’re walking to your last final of the day to pet a dog [could be helpful],” Noga said. 

            She explained that students can pet the dog or read an essay to it and that could benefit them and help them calm down during school hours. 

            Sophomore Alaina Bagby thinks that therapy dogs not only make students feel “not alone,” but could also help them be more alert. 

According to Noga, therapy dogs have to be certified by the American Kennel Club, or the AKC.

“They have to go through a pretty rigorous test where a stranger is pulling on their tail [and] poking between their toes to see that they have a pretty good disposition,” Noga said. 

             The therapy dogs that the school is using have been through these training programs.