Sign In

School Therapy Dog

December 3, 2020

The newest employee at Christ the Teacher Catholic School is a boss’ dream. All he requires are a bed in his office, a few trips outside during the day, and some scratching behind the ears.

Meet Dewey, the year-and-a-half-old golden doodle who has become a fixture around Christ the Teacher. Dewey is principal Steve Adams’ pet, but he’s become much more than that over the past few months. A trained therapy dog, he has become a fixture at Christ the Teacher.

There, he comes in two or three times a week. He greets students in the morning, makes classroom visits and bids farewell in the afternoon. Adams said Dewey has become an important part of the school.

“During the time of COVID, I think he’s really essential. He’s an essential employee. Just to help break the tension,” he said.

“Studies show that the sheer presence of a dog reduces a stress hormone in people. Petting dogs, they say, for a minute lowers blood pressure and reduces anxiety. So I think during any school year that’s needed.”

Other studies show that children who struggle with reading can benefit from reading to a dog, Adams explained. The animal is “a nonjudgmental friend” who won’t correct a child. That helps boost self-confidence about their reading skills.

Adams didn’t just show up with Dewey one day in September. The pet has two certifications as a therapy dog, which involved going through basic obedience training with an emphasis on positive reinforcement, such as petting and praising, Adams said.

“When he gets that from the kids, that really rewards him,” he said. “Some dogs you reward with treats. He would rather have positive praise and feedback. Of course, teachers have treats in their classrooms, and he know which classrooms to go to when he wants a treat. And he knows which teachers let him love him a little bit more.”

Before bringing the canine to school, Adams got the OK from the pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, Msgr. John Hopkins, a dog owner himself. He also presented his case to the superintendent of schools, Louis De Angelo, armed with research.

One of the common goals shared by Adams and Msgr. Hopkins is to clear the Canada geese who congregate on the grounds of the parish and school. About once a day, Dewey gets a chance to get outside and chase the birds away. Also, when students are not around, he sometimes gets the opportunity to run around the school’s athletic fields. But most of the time, he’s on a leash if he’s not in Adams’ office.

There, some students come to visit for “Dewey time,” as Adams puts it. The dog has all the comforts of home there. “He’s got a bed, he’s got his water dish, he has his toys. While I’m working he’ll just kind of lay down and take a nap.”

His favorite toy is a stuffed hedgehog. Adams calls that Dewey’s emotional support. “He carries that around all the time.”

Adams got the idea from Salesianum School, which also has a dog. He had done research for several years on the benefits of having a dog in school, and he got Dewey — named after the Sussex County beach town — with this in mind. Adams also wants to take him to visit hospitals and nursing homes, but that will have to wait until the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Parents were notified of Adams’ plan before Dewey first came to school, but only a few asked that their children not take part. But Dewey’s presence has been an overwhelming success.

“It’s been a very well-received program. I’ve gotten many parent emails thanking me for bringing Dewey in and a lot of feedback from the parents saying Dewey’s made a positive impact of their child’s day. Whether it’s seeing him first thing in the morning, or in the classroom or in the hallway, his presence as our newest employee is definitely welcome around here.”

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Former Victoria man’s diabetic alert dog helps him get back to life

    When Luke Hengen’s diabetes worsened in his early twenties, it stripped him of the outdoor activities where the country kid felt at home. Countless wilderness adventures and years of hard-fought football games took a toll on his body, to the point where he could no longer sense when his blood sugar was too high or […]

    Read more

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more