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Therapy Dogs In Schools

September 30, 2020

Altmar-Parish-Williamstown Central School District has two new staff members to support students throughout the school year: Bernie and Gemma, certified therapy dogs.

Bernie is a 9-month-old Bernedoodle and Gemma is a 5-month-old Ausidoodle, both of whom will support APW students with social and emotional learning needs.

Certified through the AKC Kennel Club, the hope is that the presence of the dogs may help children gain confidence and decrease anxiety, leading to increased school attendance, improved learning outcomes and overall enhancement of relationships with peers and teachers.

The dogs will work in the high school guidance office alongside counselor Rick Algie and behavior specialist Shannon Tanner, both of whom remain passionate about the use of therapy dogs in schools.

“We believe that it can benefit children in so many ways and have already seen in a difference with staff and students interacting with the dogs,” Tanner said. “Especially given all that has happened since March, it couldn’t be a more appropriate time to have this program start!”

Algie and Tanner believe that increase in comfortability in the school environment will help students learn how to express their feelings and enter into more trusting relationships as a result of experiencing trust and unconditional love.

Bernie and Gemma will help kick-off the 2020-2021 school year with meet-and-greets and visitations during “brain break’ times upon teacher request. Throughout the year, they will be housed in the guidance office and also be utilized for de-escalation of behavior situations.

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