Pioneer School District’s Therapy Dogs Making A Difference
If you happen to be at Pioneer Middle School on a Friday, you might notice a little extra excitement.
Students and teachers often refer to Friday as a "Louie Day," according to WGRZ-TV because they get a visit from Louie, one of the school's therapy dogs.
He's a fluffy golden retriever who makes the day by stealing kisses and hunting for treats.
Louie's handler is school counselor Lynne Roth, and she says he plays an increasingly important role at school for both students and teachers, especially this year during the pandemic.
"If a student is just having a meltdown, just cannot get it together, just having the dog and having them come in the office and being able to pet the dog helps. They will put their head on the child's lap, and it's just amazing how much it calms them down," said Roth.
The therapy dog program has been around the Pioneer district for about 13 years, and eight different dogs have visited. But this year the dogs are playing an extra-special part during the school day.
"There's a lot of research that shows that dogs reduce stress, anxiety, blood pressure," said school psychologist Pat Cooney.
"We have children who struggle to get out of bed in the morning, so we ask them to be in charge of daily living activities with the dog. Feeding them, brushing them and getting their water ready," said Cooney.
These responsibilities get the kids excited to come to school and give them an added sense of purpose.
"If a kid stutters a little bit or has some difficulty pronouncing a word, Brinley and Louie and Lucy do not care. They give comfort," said Cooney. "Kids who struggle reading in front of their peers in class are able to come and read to the dogs. We took some data. It showed that each kid who comes down and reads to a dog, it increases their fluency."
Overall, the dogs just make the students and teachers smile, something that is a pleasant addition to the school day.