DEMING, Wash — April 30 is National Therapy Animal Day and a secondary campus in the Mount Baker School District is howling about their canines in the classroom.
Mount Baker Junior High decided the COVID-19 pandemic was the perfect time to incorporate therapy dogs on campus. Principal Troy Wright said early trials with dogs were so popular that they launched into a full-blown training program that thoroughly vets the animals for the highest ratings.
“That way I know we can put her in a cafeteria with 300 screaming junior high kids and she’s gonna be fine,” Wright said, referring to his companion “Chappie."
Chappie is the school's resident Cardigan Welsh corgi, who was gifted to the school. She’s one of four dogs that can be spotted around campus and is by Wright’s side everyday.
“I think every principal in the state of Washington should be required to have a therapy dog," Wright said.
The influence and calming effect the dogs have on his students is unparalleled, he said.
Niki Kuklenski, a substitute teacher with the school, said, “the impact of the dogs at our school with the issues created by COVID has been monumental. We have used dogs for behavior modification, therapy to calm and support students and more.”
Eighth grader Lucille Schultz said the dogs seem to sense what students need.
“They can tell if you’re feeling anxious," Schultz said. "It’s kind of like they can tell where you are and what you need.”
The training program is known as the “Pawsitively Baker Animal Assisted Interventions Dog Program.” The intention of the program is to foster positive learning and behaviors by having reliable and safe dogs on school. Wright said support from the school board and superintendent was vital to launching the effort and they hope to inspire and support other schools in the state to follow suit.