Fur-getting troubles: Divine Canines partner with Counseling Team to bring therapy dogs to campus

Student Council and the Counseling Team partner with Divine Canines to bring therapy dogs to the courtyard during PIT.
Student Council and the Counseling Team partner with Divine Canines to bring therapy dogs to the courtyard during PIT.
Mary Bahrami

In pursuit of growing an on-campus environment that reduces as much anxiety and stress as possible and translates beyond the school walls, the Counseling Team and Student Council partnered with Divine Canines. Beginning Nov. 13, 2023, and continuing monthly throughout the school year, Divine Canines brings therapy dogs to the courtyard or main street during PIT for all students to attend.

“I see students who sometimes have a hard time coming out of their shell, and sometimes when they interact with the dog, they just light up and their whole demeanor changes,” Lead Counselor Kandice Detlefsen said. “You can see that bit of relief and happiness on a student’s face, so I’m just excited to see more of that.”

Prior to the COVID outbreak, which placed students in lockdown, a separate organization had brought therapy dogs to campus throughout the year. Once it became time to reinstate these visits, the organization required a high prohibitive cost that wasn’t within the schools reach. When looking for a new company to partner with, Divine Canines offered to visit on complete volunteer time. Because it is volunteer based, the number of dogs usually varies around four, with roughly 100 students attending.

“That’s something we are going to have to learn as we go, how to navigate that and make sure more than just the same person over and over is getting to experience this,” Detlefsen said. “We want to make sure everyone on campus has the opportunity to do this if they want to.”

As Detlefsen conveys, when humans and dogs interact, there is a release of positive chemicals and hormones such as dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin that reduces stress and anxiety in humans. Negative stress hormones will generally decrease when around animals.

“I think it’s a great idea, it definitely raised my spirits,” senior Savana Jankovic said. “I really enjoyed the experience, it was so fun to see all of the cute dogs, and it definitely helped me relax and get my mind off of schoolwork for a while.”

Although the dogs are trained to stay calm when surrounded by large groups of people, it is a concern from the Counseling team that the environment for the dogs and the handlers may be overwhelming. As with the students, they put effort into making the experience calm and relaxing for everyone by being patient and respectful. Additionally, along with the advertising and announcements that Student Council officers are in charge of regarding Divine Canines, a select few attend the PIT’s to help run the visits.

“I think that even if there’s a lot of people there, what the people are focused on is the dog,” Student Council Executive President Rebecca Tang said. “Everyone’s really respectful with each other and they take turns petting the dogs, so I don’t think that numbers are as big of a problem. Since the students that go are pretty respectful, they don’t overwhelm the dogs and the handlers, and the handlers understand the dogs well.”

Aside from the success of this partnership for the benefit of students’ mental health, the Counseling Team continues to use other resources such as workshop presentations for each grade level on different topics related to mental health and social emotional well-being. Each year they aim to expand the sessions they offer, and this year, bringing back the therapy dogs has thus far proved to achieve successful outcomes.

“I hope it is just a bright spot in their day,” Detlefsen said. “I just think that having a furry little friend who gives you unconditional, positive love back it’s just a great thing.”

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About the Contributors
Rylie Lockerman, Editor
Rylie Lockerman is a Senior and is beyond excited to serve on the editorial board as the multimedia editor for her second year on staff. Apart from newspaper, she participates in Student council, theater, and National English Honor Society. In her free time, Rylie enjoys writing scripts/books, painting, listening to pop and alternative music, and watching Friends.
Mary Bahrami, Staff Reporter
Mary Bahrami is a junior and is excited for her first year on staff. Mary is also an athlete on the Steiner Ranch Mountain Biking team and a member of yearbook staff. Outside of school, Mary loves to read, write, and spend time with friends.

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