Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Vermilion Schools Welcome Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs are being used in many industries to help comfort and support individuals with emotional or learning difficulties.  We are fortunate to be able to offer the services of two therapy dogs who are owned by our staff members.  Therapy dogs can provide a calming effect to young learners who are struggling, or who have emotional and learning difficulties.  This is partially due to endorphins that are released while petting a dog.   I wanted to take this opportunity to share some information about the dogs and the service they provide. 

Janelle Molenaar’s family pet, Jameson, was rescued from the Lorain County Dog Pound in April of 2014.  He was roughly 19-pounds underweight, and showed signs of depression due to lack of human interaction and affection.  After Jameson reached normal weight, he began working on basic commands. Within a few months, it was clear that Jameson had qualities that made him stand out from other dogs.  He naturally gravitated toward people with physical or emotional difficulties.  He leans his head on them for affection.  Friends and family often comment on how great Jameson makes them feel when he is around.  Many people experience this effect after interaction with a pet.

After seeing this response time and time again with friends and strangers alike, Mrs. Molenaar looked into canine therapy.  Jameson met with two trainers who did an evaluation on his temperament and energy level.  Jameson took the Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dog evaluation test in 2015, and passed with flying colors.  Prior to coming to Vermilion, Jamison worked with veterans at the nursing home who look forward to his visits, claiming he is the “best part of our day”.

Jameson began a new chapter in his therapy dog career in January, working at Sailorway Middle School one-to-two days a week.  He is available for students to read to, complete homework with, talk to, and socialize with.  In the school setting Jameson provides comfort and love to students via petting and affection.  The goal is for Jameson to help students build confidence, improve literacy skills, bolster self-esteem, increase self-confidence, reduce self-consciousness, and provide a nurturing friendship.  Below is a photo of Jamison at work helping to relieve test anxiety.

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Moose is a Husky/Golden Retriever mix owned by the Kurt Habermehl family.  He is enrolled in a two-year therapy training program.  Moose has mastered puppy obedience and canine good citizen courses and is still working to earn the therapy dog certificate.  Moose has been visiting Vermilion High School with Cara Habermehl approximately one day per week.  His job is to lift the spirits of students who may be down or are upset by something at home or school.  Mrs. Habermehl finds that the presence of Moose can help start conversations with students that often lead to more serious dialogue about school issues. 

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