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Counselors invite therapy dogs to combat end of cycle stress

February 21, 2018

Hounds for Heroes dog Lexi rolls over for a belly rub from senior Karsen Leavell.

Hounds for Heroes dog Lexi rolls over for a belly rub from senior Karsen Leavell.

Hounds for Heroes dog Lexi rolls over for a belly rub from senior Karsen Leavell.

After 80 percent of students reported feeling “often or always stressed by schoolwork” on the Stanford Survey of Adolescent Experiences, counselors knew they needed to find a way to combat this complicated issue. The solution? Furry friends. Dogs trained by The Dog Alliance and Hounds for Heroes visited students today in Building 2 during lunches.

“This whole year is basically in response to the survey we did last year and trying to help our students find a little more balance,” counselor Amy Rodriguez said. “We’re also trying to provide tools for [students] to use to just feel like they have a chance to take a breath during the day, and so what better way than to pet a puppy and hug them.”

At the end of the grading cycle, students feel overwhelmed when trying to balance their schedules. According to the Stanford Survey, 33 percent of students reported spending 10 or more hours in extracurricular activities just on weekdays. On top of that, students spend on average about three hours working on homework every night.

“I think the dogs help relieve the stress with the kids and it just makes everyone smile and feel better throughout the day,” senior Karsen Leavell said. “I think it’s a great idea.”

Students expressed in the Stanford Survey that they felt signs of stress such as sweating, exhaustion, headaches and weight gain. Counselors hoped they could bring relief for students, even if it was just for a lunch period. PTSA also helped make it possible for the dogs to come visit the school.

“The dogs are able to spread a little bit of peace and love,” Rodriguez said. “It makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. And if I can give the students warm and fuzzy moments with everything that’s going on in this world as well as just the craziness of life then I’m happy to do that.”

Students hurried over to see the dogs as soon as their lunch period started.

“I was so shocked, but super excited,” Leavell said. “My first reaction was to come and pet all of them because I was just so happy they were here.”

Hounds for Heroes is a service dog organization by The Dog Alliance that trains dogs to be able to help veterans deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and depression. Their goal is to help veterans find a “normal” again.

“My favorite part about visiting everybody is the joy that the dogs bring everybody,” Hounds for Heroes trainer Jerry Coffman said. “The dogs enjoy it too.”

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