Therapy dog offers kisses, encouragement to Forbuss students

Local News

Therapy dogs are known for providing comfort to people going through a difficult time in their lives. But what about helping kids in the classroom?

An elementary school in the southwest valley is learning that it has big benefits.

“You should never underestimate the power of a dog,” said Heather Oney, a 3rd grade teacher at Forbuss Elementary School.

That dog is Lucy. She’s basically part of the staff at the school — and even has the badge the prove it.

Oney is Lucy’s owner. She got her furry friend certified as a facility dog, or therapy dog, for her students.

Whether it’s reading with the class or sharing a smooch, Lucy knows how to respond to human emotions.

“From the time Lucy was about 6-months-old, I knew she had a special gift, and I had hoped one day, to be able to utilize her in some capacity with children. So, here she is spreading joy and love at school,” Oney said.

Even though this is Lucy’s first year at Forbuss Elementary, she’s already made a big difference by inspiring the students to love learning.

“Children love reading to Lucy,” Oney said. “When a child reads to a dog, they’re no longer focused on if their messing up their words. She just provides them with the patience and kindness that they need to practice, and ultimately excel.”

A 2017 public health review says, “Most studies reported significant benefits of having animal-assisted interventions in the school setting.”

“She makes us happy,” said Savannah White, 3rd grade student.

The kids notice it too.

“I pet her, and then when I went back to my seat, I was kind of getting the math problems, getting it better, and understanding it,” White said.

“She’s very comfortable to be around stuff, because she lets you know that you’re safe and secure in the classroom,” said Lexi Woods, 3rd grade student.

Strutting their stuff across the Forbuss floors, Lucy and Heather want their story to be just the beginning.

“Hopefully pave the way for more classrooms and schools to have a facility dog on campus,” Oney said.

Therapy dogs in schools is a newer trend, so it’s not very widespread. Right now, there are only a handful of therapy dogs at CCSD schools.

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