(Riverton, WY) – Trained therapy dogs Sadie, Kota, and Gus recently joined the Fremont County School District #25 team and have already made some positive impacts on not only students but staff, according to their handlers.
All three had to go through intense training and have been certified through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Currently, FCSD #25 Social Workers Aimee Fredrickson, Jill Reddon, and Perry Reddon are their handlers and piloting this program within the district.
Sadie is based at Willow Creek with Aimee, Kota is at the High School with Jill and Gus is at Rendezvous with Perry. While all three dogs are based at specific locations within the district, they can be called to any school during a crisis, Jill explained.
The conversation around the benefits of therapy dogs in the school district started last year after school social workers attended a trauma-informed school conference, shared Aimee. “Therapy dogs were a big focus during this conference and we immediately were hooked on the idea.”
“We knew this year would be especially hard for kids and so with the help of district admin, we were able to get the approval for certified therapy dogs in our schools with certified school social workers,” Aimee continued.
“There is a lot of research out there that suggests the benefit of a therapy dog includes: lowering blood pressure and stress levels, increase levels of dopamine and serotonin, improve physical well-being, decrease anxiety, dramatically increase positive mood, ease social isolation and help children learn social skills, improve attendance, and help young readers gain confidence.”
All three will be used to help students and staff self-regulate, and provide comfort in crisis situations. They will help with social skills, encourage engagement, and be an incentive for things like attendance and work completion.
Gus will also be used in Rendezvous’ CARE classes and during individual counseling times, Perry noted.
Aimee, Jill, and Perry all shared their excitement for having therapy dogs within the district, and are confident this program will have positive outcomes.