BVU Education Students Host Event to Discuss Therapy Dogs in Schools

BVU's education students hosted an event entitled “Dory and the Dean,” to discuss the positive impact therapy dogs have on youth.

On Nov. 5, Buena Vista University’s student organization Teachers Inc. and members of BVU’s Kappa Delta Pi honor society hosted an event entitled, “Dory and the Dean,” to discuss the positive impact therapy dogs have on youth. The event was named in honor of Dory, a therapy dog who visits the Storm Lake Middle School and interacts with students several times each week.

Jaymie Bral, who is the assistant principal at the Storm Lake Middle School and is Dory’s trainer, first presented the idea of an active therapy dog to school administration five years ago. Though the idea wasn’t initially backed with a lot of support, Bral continued to research the benefits of therapy dogs in schools, and in August 2018, the school board unanimously passed the idea. Dory made her first official appearance at the Storm Lake Middle School on Aug. 23.

“I felt a therapy dog could make a difference for our students because the concept was working in other schools and settings,” says Bral, who holds several degrees from BVU, including bachelor’s degrees in mass communication and elementary education, and a master’s degree in school administration and leadership. “Depression and anxiety are increasing in our youth, and I really felt a dog would be a great tool to use to help comfort those students who suffer from these conditions. Dory is also very effective with students who have autism.”According to the U.S. Dog Registry, therapy dogs provide affection and comfort to individuals in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities. They differ from emotional supports dogs in that they are not trained to help provide comfort and support to individual people with emotional problems. Therapy dogs are also unlike service dogs because they are not trained to help with performing a function for a person that is limited by a disability. Therapy dogs do, however, go through months of ongoing training and testing.

Dory visits the Storm Lake Middle School every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Her duties include greeting students and staff in the morning, helping calm students who are in a state of dysregulation, assisting students with anger management and trauma, and encouraging students to be open and honest during counseling sessions. Dory’s presence also teaches students basic skills and responsibilities through grooming, feeding, watering, and more.

“You never know what outside forces are affecting students, and Dory’s visits are a simple way to brighten up their day.”
BVU sophomore Noah Hoffman

The positive impact Dory is having on middle school youth didn’t go unnoticed by BVU students. “When kids see Dory, it makes a big difference in their day,” says Noah Hoffman, a sophomore secondary business education major from Oskaloosa. “You never know what outside forces are affecting students, and Dory’s visits are a simple way to brighten up their day.”

“Through the stories told and their own interactions with Dory, BVU students learned firsthand what research describes as the physical, social, cognitive, and emotional health benefits of therapy dogs,” says Dr. Ann Monroe-Baillargeon, dean of the School of Education at BVU. “As a result of this experience, BVU pre-service teachers have a greater understanding of the impact therapy dogs have on both teachers and students, and may add this to an ever growing list of supports and services they can call upon in their own classrooms.”

Bral says the Storm Lake School District is already planning to have more active therapy dogs in schools. “One of our counselors at the middle school is currently training a dog to start next fall. I know the elementary is working on getting a dog as well.”

Tags: