The Broadview

A girl’s best friend

Mason Cooney, Assistant Features Editor

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Wrapped up in homework, tests and college preparations, students can carry an overwhelming amount of stress, overlooking their health and wellness, but a furry, eager-eyed companion may provide the quick reset students need.

Forty schools in New York have implemented the Department of Education’s “Comfort Dog” program, a new approach to bringing social-emotional support to students, according to NYC Department of Education.

The program works with each school to adopt a rescue dog and trains it through the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum. The pup is then sent to a school to work as a four-legged school counselor, providing “unconditional acceptance and warmth,” according to Jaye Murray, Executive Director of the Office of Counseling Support Programs.

The program has proved incredibly successful, with 90 percent of participating educators reporting improved student behavior and 75 percent reporting an increase in student interest in school, according to a preliminary evaluation by Yale University.

While the program may seem like an unlikely success, several other schools and colleges have recognized the benefits of dogs on campuses. Colleges such as University of Connecticut and Tufts University offer therapy dogs during exam season, and schools like Burgundy Farm Country Day School in Virginia allow faculty to bring in dogs everyday.

Considering the popularity of a petting zoo on campus during exams, the Convent community could even more benefit from a full-time school dog — simply petting one releases hormones that can play a part in elevating moods, according to UCLA Health.

To cover the issue of dog allergies, some schools with therapy dogs limit them to certain areas, so all student interaction is voluntary. Reliable therapy dog organizations also keep dogs clean and up-to-date with the correct immunizations.

Although the dogs in the “Comfort Dog” program live with faculty members, several therapy dog programs in San Francisco provide dogs only for the day and cover liability insurance.

Faculty members’ dogs could also be evaluated and certified as therapy dogs. Nine-to-five therapy dogs, Therapeutic Visitation Dogs, have proven successful in several nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The pups motivate patients through therapy or treatment, brighten their day or remind them of their own pet, and then return home at night.

Some therapy dogs serve as great listeners, visiting primary schools to let young readers practice their fluency to a non-judgmental ear. However the value of a patient listener is not limited to children — many teens can attest to the relief of venting problems to someone who will listen.

Many adolescents experience unhealthy amounts of stress due to school, which if experienced for long-periods of time, can manifest in anxiety, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system, according to American Psychological Association.

With the mental health benefits and stimulation accredited to therapy dogs, these pups may be a much needed addition to the community, helping students in the struggle to maintain the health and wellbeing emphasized in Goal Five of the Sacred Heart Goals and Criteria.

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A girl’s best friend