If you envision a prison, most likely there isn’t a dog trotting around. But a recent increase in states implementing dog services allows facilities such as courts, schools, prisons and juvenile centers to promote emotional and mental wellness with dog-person contact. Those faced with stress often look for comfort, and a dog fits the bill.
Here’s another spot where the comfort of a dog seems essential: a school.
At Liberty High School, students have their own personal furry friend.
Tucker comes every week walking through the halls with his trainer and caretaker, Doug Earnhardt.
Tucker stays in the special education rooms to help students there feel secure and happy. He creates an fun environment and puts a smile on the face of every student and faculty member.
Seeing Tucker in the hallways becomes an instant mood booster. Students can stop and ask to pet Tucker, the friendliest dog ever.
Sam Coday, a junior who frequently stops to pet Tucker, says the dog seems to brighten the students’ days.
“I see them walking Tucker on a leash and it just seems to ease them. Just having the therapy dogs in the room makes everyone smile because they are happy dogs.”
Cooper, another golden, visits on Wednesdays and a few new puppies come along every once in a while.
One of the special education teachers, Andrew Gonino, said these dogs are standouts because they’re all calm.
“They never show any form of aggression, which is really great for our students.”
Pennapa Jarman likes to walk the dogs down the hallway.
“I like to draw the dogs and give the pictures to Doug,” the student says. “When the puppies are here we get to feed them treats and it is so fun. I love how soft the dogs’ fur is and I get to pet them all day.”
A visiting therapy dog aids with the development of social skills such as greater self-esteem and supplementary interaction with other students and teachers.
A national survey of adolescent mental health found that about “8 to 10 percent of teens ages 13 to 18 have an anxiety disorder.” (Dogs, Alliance 2017). A therapy dog can lift moods in the classroom.
In other facilities, a therapy dog provides friendship and comfort to people in stressful surroundings. Allowing dogs to be a part of the school, court, prison, or juvenile center is crucial to encourage better emotional and mental health throughout the nation.
Madison Boram is a junior at Liberty High School