Two therapy dogs joined the staff for the 2020-21 school year. Golden retriever brothers, Luigi and Franklin, are excited to be supporting OLCHS and its students. Luigi, training with social worker Sal Montes, has his home base in the Student Services office where he attends group sessions with social workers and counselors. Franklin, training with Principal Dr. Jeana Lietz, spends his days in the Main Office. Both brothers greet visitors and walk the hallways. Students and staff can also visit their offices when needed and can be reserved for classes so students can read to them, learn dog care, and participate in art therapy.
Therapy dogs have proven to help people relax, lower anxiety, reduce loneliness, increase mental stimulation, and provide an escape or happy distraction. Therapy dogs can also lower blood pressure, improve cardiovascular health, diminish overall pain, and benefit children with autism. Children with autism were engaged in greater use of language as well as social interaction with their therapy session that incorporated animals compared to standard sessions.
Dr. Lietz is proud of the recent addition to the staff and has stated, “For a few years we have been bringing dogs in during Final Exams to help with stress relief. Based on the success of those small interactions, I knew that full-time dogs would have an impact on the social-emotional wellbeing of our students and staff. And with the added stress of the pandemic, this year turned out to be the perfect year to bring them in the school. I look forward to seeing the impact they make as they grow up and become fully trained.”
Photograph: L to R: Luigi, Franklin