Sign In

CMS’s Therapy Dog

November 17, 2020

His full name is Shilohs Magnanimous Black, but he goes by Magnus for short. He’s young, he’s playful, and his blonde hair has a tendency to get everywhere. He’s the new therapy dog at Cody Middle School, training to help the students calm down and even learn.

Magnus isn’t a service or emotional support animal – one specially trained for a specific person. Service animals have a specific function, commonly seen as guide dogs for people in need.

An emotional support animal provides support and comfort to an individual owner and, to become official, must be prescribed by a mental health professional.

Magnus is neither of those things. One of the key differences, said owner and handler Kori Black, is that Magnus as a therapy dog can help anyone.

“A service animal is specially trained for a person with a disability,” Black, a counselor at CMS, said. “He’s here for everyone else.”

A therapy dog like Magnus, who will go through optional certification tests in February, is another tool in the toolbox for Black to work with students. He’ll be trained in a variety of areas, including animal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted education.

“We don’t get a lot of time with the kids, so we work on short-term goals. A lot of our time with them is spent regulating [their emotions],” Black said. “As they pet him, it releases serotonin, regulating [their emotions] faster than we can with talk.”

In addition to therapy, Magnus is being trained to help the students with their education, by being a friendly ear to read to or a way for students to practice some fine motor skills, like working with buckles.

Using animals in therapy has a long history and has been studied heavily by psychologists. Multiple studies show therapy dogs have a positive effect both on mental and emotional health, as well as improving reading outcomes when used with another program.

Of course, Magnus will not become the counselor or the teacher. The British Lab is simply another way to reach the students. Having an animal in the room helps build a rapport between counselor and student as well, said Black, increasing the trust between the student and the adult.

“When kids see me, they may not me know me or there may be stereotypes with the counselor, but now I’m the lady with the dog,” she said. “That’s cool. That helps build relationships. It’s like having a cool friend.”

Therapy dog programs like the one started at CMS have had their detractors, with some accusing counselors or others who bring the animals into school as just wanting their pets around.

“Can I lie and say it’s not nice having him here three days a week?” Black asked. “That would be a lie. But it’s not about that. He is specifically here for a reason. He’s specifically working, and that’s what’s important.”

While Magnus is Black’s dog, she is taking extra care to avoid those accusations by becoming a certified handler and putting Magnus through a training and certification program to keep everything above board.

“As a therapist through the American Counselors Association, they just trust my professionalism to choose an animal, to get the training,” Black said. “I wanted to something else that I could show, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this right. We’re going to do it well.’”

The community has already shown its support for the program. Black said she got six emails from parents who were excited about the addition. Even so, her concern is not with the public perception of the pilot program, but with the students.

“It’s more likely there will be concerns of allergies and fear of animals,” Black said.

Magnus is going to stick around the middle school, but other counselors can see him in action and learn about his role. That may inspire them to get their own therapy animals.

“In that way, I’m opening the door for them,” Black said. “If they think that there’s benefit of it, then they can bring in an animal and use it in their practice,”

Register your Dog Schedule a Visit

  • Recent News

    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

    Therapy Dogs At School

    Those who own a dog can attest to their ability to lift mood, improve stress and bring joy by simply being there, unanswering, seemingly all-knowing and always delighted to see you.  Therapy animals are known for their calm and comforting nature, giving people a way to relax, de-stress and interact with a loving pet.  They […]

    Read more

    Wonder Dog

    For those of us with dogs, we know they quickly become major parts of the family. You live for and care for just like one of your own children, and one dog right here in Oklahoma City is beating the odds, and helping others recover as a therapy dog, despite all of the issues he’s […]

    Read more

    Scott And Charlie

    Cherokee Middle School students may do a little more “doodling” second semester starting this month (January), but also will improve their attendance marks because of a special attraction at the school, courtesy of Principal Scott Aden. Aden, an effective, caring administrator, has acquired and will house and handle a young female Golden Doodle (Charlie) that […]

    Read more

    Hope For Veterans

    E5 Therapy opened in April with a different way to help veterans in therapy. They offer canine-assisted therapy along with talk therapy to veterans and veterans’ families in Solano County. Owner Matthew Decker is a licensed clinical social worker in Northern California, focused on helping veterans achieve their mental health goals. Along with his team, […]

    Read more