Therapy Dogs Help Community Heal After School Tragedy – Dogster

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A Kansas high school made national headlines after a 2022 school shooting rocked the community. A place of positive experiences, such as football games, school plays and a prom, has turned into a crime scene.

The therapy dogs in the schools were part of the response team. Friendly furry faces, supportive counsellors, staff and parents all came together to welcome students and begin the healing process within the school community. Trained to use their therapeutic nature to defuse emotions in a difficult situation, therapy dogs bring joy to students and staff.

Therapy dogs in schools to the rescue

Jennifer Cullen and Tisha Halfert, school counselors with the Kansas City School District, are part of a response team that helps with a loss or traumatic experience at one of the schools. Both staff members own Goldendoodles and work with them to bring a sense of calm to an emotionally charged situation.

Shortly after the March 4, 2022 shooting, Tisha and Jennifer brought their Goldendoodles, Milo and Baxter, to colleges where the students were reunited with their families.

“A girl specifically came to pick me and Baxter up the day it happened. The dogs provided them with a lifeline,” Jennifer explains.

“A dog means love in the lives of so many people,” says Angie Salava, director of mental health at Olathe Public Schools in Kansas, where the shooting took place. “When your sense of safety is interrupted, therapy dogs can help restore that safety and the healing can begin.”

Therapy dogs encourage students to return to school

School administrators brought in therapy dogs, counselors and additional police to calm nerves and comfort students as they re-entered the building. The dogs were extremely well received and reassured the students and staff.

“Many of our parents and students were reluctant to return to school; the dogs helped usher them in,” says Tisha. “It helped reduce their anxiety.”

“When one of us enters a building where we are not known, the presence of the dogs immediately breaks the ice,” explains Jennifer. “Children are more open to conversation at this time. With one person, it takes much longer. The presence of dogs opens doors.

An increase in school therapy dogs

Therapy dogs are also used for positive behavior incentive programs, to promote reading, and to diffuse intense situations in the district’s elementary schools.

In recent years, a growing number of professionals are certifying dogs to help in offices and schools, says Scarlet Ross, who trains, tests and certifies therapy dogs locally for schools (and work).

Therapy dogs, which provide emotional support, are different from assistance dogs, which are trained to help with a disability.

“People are harder to trust, but an animal automatically gains their trust,” says Jeanette Clampitt, principal of nearby district school Henry Leavenworth Elementary and mother of Teddy, a 4-year-old Bernedoodle. “They give unconditional love, which means the child can be themselves. Dogs have that sense of calm that people tend to seek out when they’re sad.

To learn more about therapy dog ​​certifications, visit Therapy Dogs International.

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