School district brings in therapy dogs to help students cope with pandemic
Students in a Mercer County school district are getting some help from some furry friends to deal with the emotions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Being able to use our dogs to help children, it doesn’t get any better than that,” says Tricia Baker, with A.I.R. Therapy Dogs.
The Hopewell Valley Regional School District has teamed with Air Therapy Dogs to help the students get through the pandemic.
“All of our administrators who have dogs have volunteered to have their dogs trained to act as therapy dogs for our students,” says Hopewell Valley Regional School District Superintendent Thomas Smith.
Baker says that having the dogs around can help the children deal with stressful situations.
"The simple act of looking at a dog releases oxytocin, which is the relationship hormone, and then when you pet a dog it releases serotonin; dopamine and it lowers our cortisol level, which is our stress hormone,” she says.
Smith says that he has already noticed a difference with the students.
“Students weren’t readily sharing their emotions, but when we brought the dogs in, they were really open and willing to share what they were feeling,” he says.
Baker says that she started the organization after a tragedy in her own life.
“I lost my son Kenny to suicide,” she says. “And my little dog Miki was part of that healing process.”
The district uses therapy dogs for both virtual and in-person learning.