PetPalsNC Sends Comfort Therapy Dogs to Local Schools

Carrboro High School receives pet therapy dog, Pandora the Poodle.
Dog 3 Creditchccs
Photo courtesy of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools
Pandora the poodle greets a student.

Pandora the Poodle has become a Carrboro High School Jaguar, joining other PetPalsNC therapy dogs that have been matched with schools in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district. Once a week, Pandora checks in at the office with her handler, Ginny Murray, and they set up in the cafe commons area to hang out with students during lunch. Despite the commotion of noisy teenagers crowding the space, Pandora stands calm, eyeing her surroundings and edging toward any student who approaches for a quick introduction or petting session.

April Crider, a Carrboro High School social worker, says the school “borrowed” a therapy dog from Culbreth Middle School earlier this school year after the death of a student.

“The students found the dog to be a great distraction, and it just felt good at that moment to cuddle with her,” she says. Now Carrboro High School has its own dog, and Pandora will attend on a regular schedule.

Trained dogs have offered various supports to students for years, especially as reading buddies in elementary schools. But their presence in middle and high schools is relatively new, and the impact they make is less tied to academic activities than to general emotional and social benefits.

Culbreth Middle School has experienced several tragic losses in recent years, and the dogs became part of the crisis counseling teams as a result. However, the therapeutic connections need not be tied to loss or crisis.

“There isn’t a child who can’t use 15 minutes with a dog every week,” Culbreth Middle School social worker Stefanie Mazva-Cohen says.

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Categories: Education, Mental Health