Sit, Fetch, and Heal

Therapy dogs help students who are dealing with trauma.

   Did you know that pets can be more than just cute and cuddly?

   Dogs, for instance, can be trained to provide affection, comfort and love to people in schools, hospitals, and even residential treatment facilities like Highfields. They are called therapy dogs.

   Students at Highfields have a wide range of challenges. Most have suffered from trauma, mental health challenges, anxiety, depression, and other disorders. Research shows that therapy dogs can provide emotional support to children with special needs and can decrease stress.

   Therapy dogs also help divert attention from daily problems, like anger, loneliness and lack of control.

   Fay Longhofer is a certified pet therapy trainer in mid-Michigan. She became connected to Highfields through her veterinarian and now visits campus once a week with one of her four therapy dogs.

   She teaches students how to approach dogs, play with them, and teach them new tricks. She also allows the students and dogs to interact organically with each other and cheer up students who many be having a rough day.

   “It is not unusual to see my dogs curl up with students who are moping in the bean bag chairs, or crawl under a table with a student who is in a bad mood,” said Fay. “Therapy dogs sense their emotions and react accordingly.”

   Student Clinton likes playing with therapy dogs and agrees that he feels less stressed after spending time with them.

   “The dogs take my mind off being away from home,” said Clinton. “They help me relieve stress, pass time, and I feel less angry after being around them.”

We are grateful to Fay for volunteering her time to bring Dolce, Scout, Fritz, and Wolverine to help heal and bring joy to Highfields’ students.

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