GUY — Students at Guy-Perkins School District were given the opportunity to learn more about the services therapy dogs provide to those who have undergone trauma.
Therapy dogs are trained to provide affection and comfort to those who have endured high stress or lived through a traumatic incident.
"Medical science shows that interaction with a therapy dog can reduce blood pressure; promote physical healing; reduce anxiety, fatigue and depression; and provide emotional support," according to Therapy Dogs United.
Penny Howard, the school’s elementary and high school guidance counselor, said she wanted to bring Henry, a basset hound trained to provide therapeutic services, to the school in coordination with a project the school’s third-grade class recently finished.
Students researched the services therapy dogs provide as well as the jobs police and service dogs perform.
"I wanted to give them a little bit of insight and let them know that there are dogs out there for people that go through traumatic situations," Howard said Friday. "Dogs are really good for the soul. Science has proven over time how well dogs make you feel."
Henry’s skills became apparent to the students learning about his duties as they observed his expertise firsthand.
Howard said Henry proved he knows just what he’s doing as she walked through the rows of children in one of the school’s classrooms, giving each child a chance to say "Hi" and pet Henry.
"One of the students recently had a death in the family," Howard said. "You could tell he could sense something in the room. It was amazing how he just went over and sat by her feet … he knew."
Therapy dogs are individually trained to provide certain types of services to individuals in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, hospices as well as to those coming home from the military, those who have endured high stress, disaster victims and more.
A child having difficulty learning to read can also benefit from a therapy dog’s services.
"Studies show children find the non-judgmental ears of a therapy dog the perfect choice to hone ad improve their reading skills," according to Therapy Dogs United. "A therapy dog may also work with disabled or autistic children. In a hospital setting, a therapy dog might visit patients in pediatrics, oncology, or even hospice centers. Sometimes a hospital will invite a therapy dog to visit the emergency room because of the calming effect on patients, doctors, nurses and staff members working in the high-stress environment."
Howard said she has begun a process of researching grants and looking into the possibility of getting a therapy dog for the school district, noting she attended an informational workshop on the subject over the summer.
"In my every day, we have those kids that just need that little extra to get them through the day," she said. "Sometimes it’s just that quiet time, laying on the floor with a pillow and having that external comfort of the dog."
Having a therapy dog on campus could beneficial to the district, she said, noting it would allow for a new avenue for children to express and relieve their troubles.
"It’s important for our kids to know that there are ways other than just talking to a counselor that allows you to express your feelings [and find] your happy place," Howard said. "There are other avenues to get your fears out if your upset or bothered about something."
Although Henry was only at the school until about 1 p.m. Friday, Howard said she will continue looking into the opportunity of permanently bringing a therapy dog to the school’s campus.