Stress-Relieving Dogs

Midterms took place during the week of January 23. Many students stress about these tests because they are a large part of students’ semester grades. On January 12, the counseling department sent out a text via Remind, telling students that there would be therapy dogs available the week before midterms. Students were allowed to sign up for a ten minute session during their lunches or third block study halls to come interact with the dogs in order to help them relax before midterm week.
The dogs were from an organization called Blue Gray Therapy Dogs, who came to the school last year for a Psychology Club presentation. Andy Fraser, a member of the organization and a frequent substitute teacher at Riverbend, said, “The school asked us to come. Someone heard that we were at the University of Mary Washington, and Dr. Wright contacted my wife Kim.” The organization has been around for about 20 years and even provided help after 9/11. “The dogs help lower blood pressure and stress levels and gives students a break from their rigorous schedules,” Fraser explained. As the week before midterms passed, the dogs were the talk of the school with different dogs visiting each day. Many students loved having the dogs here at school. Kieria Hibbs, a tenth grader, said that she was very happy that the dogs were here. She had a very great experience and wants the therapy dogs everyday. The dogs were very happy to greet people and some even gave kisses to students. “It was a very positive experience,” Novella Irving, a ninth grader, said. She said that the dogs being here made her feel really good. “The dogs being here made me so happy; it made me feel like all my worries were gone. I would do this again 100%; I highly recommend it,” said Pressley Everett, an eleventh grader.
The owners of the dogs happily interacted with the students, making conversation as well as answering questions the students asked. They explained the history of the dogs, how they became therapy dogs and how long they have been doing it. Many of the dog owners said that they knew their dogs were meant to be therapy dogs because of how sociable they were. Some of the dogs prefer to do different types of therapy. Some like to go around to nursing homes and hospitals, while some like do to Paws for Reading, a program where kids can read to the dogs to grow confidence in reading out loud.
On Thursday, January 26, Blue Gray came back to the school so that the teachers were able to spend time with the dogs. Mrs. Broklawski was one of the many teachers who went to see them. “They definitely made me feel happy, it was exciting to have the opportunity to decompress as a teacher,” said Mrs. Broklawski. The teachers also had to sign up in order to see them. “The experience was awesome; we weren’t rushed despite the time slots. I would absolutely do this again. The only thing I would change is longer time slots,” said Mirs. Broklawski. Overall, there were 160 students and 18 teachers that signed up.
The dogs were a really big hit with all the students and the teachers. They left those who visited in a more positive mood.