Dogs and other pets are amazing creatures! They provide unconditional love, do not discriminate, judge, laugh or criticize, and they are excellent and attentive listeners. These characteristics are among the reasons that pet-assisted therapy is a natural fit for children and adolescents, as HES students and teachers have found since 2007 when the school social worker began bringing her own therapy dogs to school. Increasing referrals spurred the growth of what has become the Pet Pals Program, and now there are a number of trained and certified therapy pets and their handlers coming to HES on a regular basis. In fact, Pet Pals now has 22 volunteers and 26 dogs working in 10 schools in the district!
Students may be referred to work with a dog (or other pet) because of a special need, to practice a skill, or simply as a reward. Pet Pals teams provide a variety of animal-assisted activities and therapies to improve reading fluency and vocabulary, practice fine/gross motor skills, teach compassion and empathy, build confidence and motivation, increase memory and attention, build cooperation and communication, and even to learn math facts! The human-animal connection is powerful and amazing!