Stress is one of the most popular words among adolescents in today’s world, and there is no exception for the students at Immaculate Heart Academy. As members of the IHA Guidance Department are very aware that our young women are in perpetual overdrive, they are constantly looking into various resources to help. Guidance counselor, Ms. Ellen Donoghue’76, said she was interested in bringing therapy dogs to IHA since reading about local schools doing it, and understanding how good it can be for students to connect with animals.
Ms. Donoghue organized a Guidance Department Professional Development Day at Academy of the Holy Angels, where the IHA counselors met with Sr. Mary Foley who has her dog onsite all day, every day. “We learned and asked questions, and she connected us with Dianne Tulp from Therapy Dogs of Tenafly,” Ms. Donoghue said. “We thought doing it around exam time would help alleviate stress.”
On June 6, 2019, four handlers and their furry friends from Therapy Dogs of Tenafly visited IHA. We were pleased to welcome Louie and his handler, Isabel Almonte, the team leader; Jasper and his handler, Margaret Hliboki; Charlie and his handler, Pam Marzano; and Tonka and her handler, Jessica Gotthold. Our students had the opportunity to visit with the dogs during both lunch periods.
According to The Alliance of Therapy Dogs, there is an array of benefits of having therapy dogs in a school setting. 1. Physical benefits: Interaction with therapy dogs has been shown to reduce blood pressure, provide physical stimulation, and assist with pain management. 2. Social benefits: A visiting therapy dog promotes greater self-esteem and focused interaction with other students and teachers. 3. Cognitive benefits: It has been empirically proven that therapy dogs stimulate memory and problem-solving skills. 4. Emotional and Mental Health benefits: A recent national survey of adolescent mental health found that about eight to ten percent of teens ages thirteen to eighteen have an anxiety disorder. A therapy dog can lift moods, often provoking laughter. The therapy dog is also there to offer friendship and a shoulder to lean on for students.
Members of both the Guidance and College Counseling Departments noticed the girls’ positive reactions to the dogs’ visit to IHA. Ms. Donoghue said she looks forward to working with Therapy Dogs of Tenafly further and hopes to bring the dogs in more frequently next year—at least at midterms and finals and maybe other times as well.