Therapy dogs are becoming more common in hospitals, nursing homes, and now, even schools.
The idea was implemented in the Wayne Central School District. Three dogs in the Wayne Central High School are changing the mood of students and staff one paw at a time.
On certain days and at certain classes, Bella, Greta and Livi provide calm and comfort to students.
“It makes a big impact, when I get stressed out in class, when I pet the dog, I get more relaxed. I always look forward to coming to school, the first block,” said Camrin Ross, a senior at Wayne Central.
The concept has been in the works for years now, and administrators see the payoff. For senior Jeremiah Parrin, it’s more than just playing ball and petting the dogs, he’s seen a change in his academic performance.
“My grades would be at the bottom of the barrel passing. But ever since I had a dog in the class, I’ve been able to pay attention more, my spirits are happy and been raised,” said Parrin.
Teachers believe the dogs have helped decrease students from having to visit the principal’s office.
“She would be one of those strategies that when kids are starting to get to that point of anxiety or their anger is increasing, just sitting with her for a while can prevent them from doing something that could cause administrative consequences,” said Paula Ashley, Wayne Central teacher and Bella’s handler.
New classes have stemmed from that strategy to help students who may have social and emotional difficulties.
“The dog would participate, the kids would participate on social and emotional activity daily. and that made a hugely significant difference,” said Robert LaRuche, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources.
It’s a difference administrators say may be a model for other school districts.
The dogs and their handlers are selected through a unique process and requirements are set by the school board of education.