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Literacy & LearningTestimonials

FEARFUL STUDENTS AND THERAPY DOGS

We often encounter students who have anxiety and fear when around dogs. It seems that our therapy dogs are then thrust into the role of helping students overcome these issues.  The gentle and calm demeanor of a therapy dog is the first step in working with these students.  It’s heartwarming to see our therapy dogs help students gain confidence while being around dogs.

Sean was in second grade when Hannah started classroom therapy dog visits.  When the teacher took September photos of each student reading to the dog, Sean wouldn’t come within twelve feet of Hannah. 

None of us forced the issue and allowed Sean to dictate his comfort level.  As the weeks passed and Sean observed his classmates snuggling with Hannah, he started to inch closer and closer when it was his turn to read.  His teacher and the handler silently applauded the day Sean sat next to Hannah and petted her.  Soon he looked forward to the dog visits as much as his classmates.  At the end of the year when the teacher took photos of each student with Hannah, Sean was snuggling beside her with his arm around her body. 

Six years later, Sean and Hannah were reunited in middle school. There was a joyful reunion when Hannah walked in for her first visit.  Needless to say, the handler had tears in her eyes.

Then there was Chelsey, a 5th grader. At the end of the year she volunteered to write about her experience with Hannah in the school’s student newsletter, The 5 O’Clock Times.

REFLECTION ON HANNAH, OUR THERAPY DOG

Hannah is our reading dog.  At the beginning of the year I was petrified of all kinds of dogs and wouldn’t even go near one.  When Hannah started visits, I didn’t think I would read to her or pet her, and just be scared the whole year.  When it was my turn to sit with Hannah, I decided to be super brave and pet her.  I was glad that one of the first dogs I was petting was a therapy dog because they are sweet and extra calm.  After I petted her for my first turn, I thought it was a miracle I didn’t freak out and that I was extremely relaxed.   The next time it was my turn to sit with Hannah, I took another big step towards eliminating my dog fears and started to read to her and pet her at the same time!  I kept doing this every time I sat with Hannah.   Now it is the end of the year, and I am not scared of Hannah at all.  Also, my fear of dogs has dropped a little bit.  When I pass dogs on the street or anywhere, I now don’t jump and hide behind anyone.  I also went to a friend’s house, and her dog was so calm I didn’t need my friend to hold the dog by the collar while I was there.  If you have a horrible fear of dogs, and want to overcome your fear, I suggest starting with a therapy dog!

by Chelsey S.