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ZONE Dog Therapy

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What would you do if you walked into a classroom and were greeted by a pair of dogs? This was the surprise students discovered on November 16, 2017, when the ZONE hosted its annual dog therapy event, helping students blow off steam.

“I was very happy because I️ was able to spend time with those loving animals. It kind of brightened up my day,” junior Jacob Lyandres said. “Who wouldn’t want to spend time with dogs?”  

Students sat around the room attentively listening to the dog trainer Caryl Swain and watching the two sweet dogs she brought with her, Forest and Andy. Students were listening, but waiting anxiously to play with the dogs.

“The trainer told us about this girl who one of the dogs she trained got sent to. Her muscles were atrophied [weak] and she was unable to open the door of the refrigerator to get water,” explained ZONE Director Mariam Gerges. “This girl had to rely on her parents up until that point, but once she got the therapy dog it could open the fridge, get a water bottle, close the fridge, and then bring her the water bottle,” she said.

After Ms. Swain introduced the dogs and demonstrated skills they had learned from training, she guided them around the room to interact with the students. Students met the dogs with smiles and purehearted joy. Finally, Forest and Andy were allowed to go around the room on their own. The dogs split up and regrouped on multiple occasions as students fought for their attention.

Ms. Swain has been training canines for nine years and has successfully trained nine dogs. She currently works for K-9 Companions, a company known for its service dog training program.  The dogs who visited, Forest and Andy, were still in training to be service dogs that help people. Often their training can take anywhere from two to three years, and, at the end of their training, they are placed in homes to serve those who are unable to perform everyday task without help: those with visual and hearing impairment, mobility difficulties like the girl mentioned by Ms. Gerges, or even anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorders.

The experience was supposed to give students a chance to learn and engage with the pet therapy dogs. I think the event was a success in that it was very therapeutic for students”

— Ms. Gerges

The event lasted for four periods and all who came left with a smile. The Zone advisors want to invite the dogs once again this school year knowing that dogs like Forest and Andy have a lasting effect on students who met them.

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