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Dogs In Class During Crises

January 4, 2013, 5:23 PM by Peggy Moyer

Dogs In Class During Crises

The Sioux Falls School District works hard to make sure students and teachers have access to the latest tools.  And, not all of them involve technology.

The district recently benefited from having dogs in the classroom and is now looking to partner with our four footed friends even more.

Not just any dog can boost a child's confidence when it comes to reading or provide a paw to lean on when a child is hurting. But therapy dogs have been known to do both.

"The dog is happy and the dog isn't speaking. The dog is just warm and cuddly and friendly and is just there," therapy dog owner Julie Mickelberg said.

On Friday, the Sioux Falls School District met with members of the Sioux Empire Therapy Dog International chapter to learn more about integrating therapy dogs into the crisis response program.

One of the most compassionate uses for a therapy dog is to provide grief counseling for students. The last time the Sioux Falls School District used dogs in the classroom was at Discovery Elementary School when a fellow second grader passed away.

Therapy dogs helped deliver the tragic news to students the following day and school officials say they saw how the dogs helped the students work through such a tough topic that even adults have a hard time with.

"It brings them to a level where they are not concentrating so much on what they're thinking or what they want to say. It's just kind of more spontaneous and that's what we find the dogs doing such a good job for us when it comes to a crisis or tragedy with kids," Sioux Falls Student Support Services Coordinator Celeste Uthe-Burow said.

"The dogs give us that time to breathe and time to decompress and the time to absorb and let it come together. You know, I lost my friend. My friend isn't going to be here. And what does all that mean," Mickelberg said.

Mickelberg says the human body reacts physically as well as emotionally to tragic news, and these dogs can help children process all of it in a positive manner.

Science has proven that dogs help lower a person's blood pressure and reduce stress so therapy dogs have even found their way into the world of cardiac rehab.

Click here if you'd to learn more about the Sioux Empire Chapter of Therapy Dogs International.

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