About Our Therapy Dog Program
Studies show therapy dogs have a positive effect on student academic and social growth. A 2019 study published by the National Institute of Health found that a dog present in the classroom promotes positive mood and provides significant anti-stress effects on the body. Therapy dogs also allow students to feel comfortable opening up to counselors regarding their feelings and/or situation.
Our Therapy Dog program, which started at the Lillian M. Dunfee Elementary School in 2016 with Tink ( a shih tzu) followed by her sister, Winnie ( a shih tzu, maltese mix) has been making a positive impact on staff and students’ morale and mental well-being since that time.
2020 was a difficult year with many daily challenges imposed by the global pandemic and both students and staff were affected. When we were able, we brought Winnie back, (as Tink, who was 14 years old, retired) into the schools for everyone. Students and staff lit up when Winnie came into their building, including the Board Office. Winnie’s soothing, fun-loving, and charismatic nature has had a positive effect on our school environments. “Winnie Wednesdays” have been going strong in our School District since September. Everyone loves her visits, but she cannot provide support for all schools, so she enlisted some help from her “four - legged friends in the community.”
As our Community Connections have grown, so have our Therapy Dog Connections. Six members of our community have offered their services, along with their owners, to provide support in some of our schools. They are Coconut, Kiwi, Mac, Leisel, and Clementine and Lemon.
Coconut is a labrador retriever who provides comfort and support to students at Donahue, Horbelt, and joins Kiwi to provide support to our high school kids. While Coconut was caring for her puppies, her sisters Clementine and Lemon took over her duties with all their cuteness and visited the schools. Who doesn’t love a puppy?!
Mac provides smiles in the Dunfee School.
Leisel works very closely with our Middle School kids at Brackman as well as the PAWS Program.
I am very proud of the progress we have made with this program and work to fine tune the program each year.
I would love to have you see the students interact with the dogs as that is the best way to see how this program works.