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Therapy Dogs relives stress

April 2, 2020

Lubbock ISD’s growing therapy dog is obtaining positive attention from students, staff and board members as the program continues to grow.

Starting three years ago, Lizabeth Burns, a counselor who helps run the program, says three therapy dogs went through extensive certification programs and manners courses to be exceptional and qualified school therapy dogs. Today, there are seven dogs including Joe Bean, who hit the hallways on Tuesday at Lubbock High School. They provide individual, group, and classroom sessions.

Lizabeth is also Joe’s caretaker and she says Joe and the other dogs are meant to relieve stress from students and staff.

“I really think the advantages of staff and students is immense. It’s more than we expected. The staff is just as excited to bend and pet and love on him to see what tricks he knows as the kids are so it’s a good thing,” Lizabeth said.

Students who participated in a dog therapy session reported having more positive outlooks even up to 10 hours later. Students at Lubbock High School showed similar reactions.

“You know, they’re always happy and you kind of just get happier to see them happy and it makes you feel all good inside,’’ said sophomore Layla Curtas.

Lizabeth says that the dogs also help students with behavioral and social skills and help the overcome their fears, especially if they’re afraid of the dogs at first.

“Dogs are a great resource for trying to teach inclusion. They’re a great resource to teach acceptance of everybody because they just love. They very seldom meet someone they don’t like,” said Lizabeth. ““We can do budgeting skills with the animals. What does it cost to take care of an animal? How much does it cost to take them to the vet? So, there’s research projects that we can build around them. You can almost make the case of including a dog in every subject.”

The dogs even are invited into some classrooms when the students take tests. “They can close up their booklets for a minute and go on the other side of the room and lie down have a quick break with dog and love them and deescalate.”

Curious staff members even have the opportunity to see how they can get a therapy dog at home in a program called the “Muttley Crew”.

“We encourage people to come and meet once a month and we work on dog training strategies and how do you become a therapy dog? How do you get one registered?” Lizabeth said.

Lizabeth hopes to continue to grow the program so campuses can see the dogs more often.

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