Best Friends Pet Assisted Therapy dogs and trainers returned to WL-S this week after trainers first introduced their program to our teachers earlier this fall. This time, our students got the chance to meet, pet and love the dogs that will eventually integrate into the culture at WL-S!
Best Friends Pet Assisted Therapy brings highly trained pets and owners to schools, retirement communities, hospitals, airports, and crisis intervention efforts. The dogs, and their owners, are trained to be highly effective members of care teams working to heal physical or emotional stressors. At school therapy dogs can provide many services. Younger students love reading to the dogs. This provides a safe place for students practice reading out loud without feeling anxious or judged. Dogs may be used to ease test anxiety in older students. And in some cases, dogs may be used for crisis intervention purposes in conjunction with a treatment plan set forth by a school counselor.
This week, their visit was intended to introduce the program to students, explain what therapy dogs do, and share safety tips for both approachable and unapproachable dogs. Lucy, a 13 year old lab/poodle mix, and Millie, a 2 year old Golden retriever, were the first to meet Mrs. Johnson and Shivley’s fourth graders. Their trainers, Ms. Karen Zeigler who retired from WL-S teaching staff, and Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton shared how to safely approach a leashed pet and ask permission to pet the dog. They also shared what to do in an unsafe situation with a dog. Students were then invited to use the skills with Millie and Lucy who were eager to receive the friendly rubs from new friends.
“We are very much looking forward to Karen, Millie and all of their friends to visit with our staff and students in the future,” Aaron Hollar, shared. As the principal of the elementary, he and his team work hard to make school a place that students are excited to be. “We try to make school a fun, safe place for students to learn and having visits from this group will certainly help with that goal. We are very thankful that there are volunteers like this in our community that want to help make the day better for our students!” The elementary reading program should launch after the first of the year.