Local registered therapy dogs Beck and Digit were brought in Monday for the purpose of comforting and consoling of students at Wheelersburg High School gym in the aftermath of a sledding accident that claimed the life of senior classmate Ethan Pauley.
Teresa Huddle with her ten year old Old English Sheepdog Digit and Russell D Williams American Legion Auxiliary Unit 471 President Kathi Jo Zornes with her six year old Beagle/English Setter mix Beck circulated through the groups of students as they gathered in the school gym for comfort until 2:30 p.m.
Huddle was already sharing her therapy dog with the students when she sent Zornes a message. It seems there were so many children in the gym and wandering the hallways that in she wanted Zornes to bring her dog Beck and help her.
“It takes me an hour to get to Wheelersburg, so I said to give me about an hour and a half,” Zornes said. “As quickly as I could I got my stuff on and grabbed my therapy dog, Beck and we took off and we were there by noon and were there with them until about 2:30.”
The two therapy dogs were just a part of the support network shown at Wheelersburg Monday, but were deemed by School Superintendent Mark Knapp as a big help to lighten the atmosphere. A prayer circle was held for the students and families as well outside.
“We basically milled around with the kids and made some small talk with them,” Zornes said. “We didn’t talk about anything specific. We were just there for comfort.”
Zornes said therapy dogs serve two different purposes. Whether it is a nursing home facility or special circumstance such as the one which occurred over the weekend in Wheelersburg, the dogs can come in and deter the mood and Zornes said they can actually lower blood pressure.
“They just get a positive vibe from the dogs and the dogs don’t mind,” Zornes said. “They’re easy-going. They’re kind and they are receptive to these kinds of things.”
Registered therapy dogs also provide a service called “Tail wagging tutoring.”
“That is where we going into like a public library or an elementary school and kids who have some reading disabilities get to sit down and read to the dog,” Zornes said. “They do not read to an adult, which can be more intimidating, but by doing this it helps them relax more and focus more on becoming better readers. It’s all beneficial to the community.”
Local therapy dogs are volunteers in the community and available for such assistance free of charge. For more information, to request a visit, or to find out more information visit Therapy Dogs International, Inc.’s website at www.tdi-dog.org or contact local TDI Evaluator Kathi Jo Zornes at 1-740-372-2176 or at [email protected]
Beck, the Beagle/English Setter on the left and Digit, the Old English Sheep Dog on the right were utilized for grief counseling Monday at Wheelersburg schools following the loss of a student in a freak accident over the weekend.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.