GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) — As Grand Island Central Catholic resumes in-person learning, a little dog is making a big difference.
Shire, a 17-month-old Cavachon, that is a certified therapy dog through Healing Hearts Therapy Dogs, began his work Tuesday at the school. Dawnell Glunz, a first-year speech and intervention specialist at GICC, said Shire is in four full-time classes each school day and also visits a rotation of classes.
Glunz said since she and Shire became certified as a therapy team in June, this is the first time they have been together at school.
Cavachon is a mixed breed dog that is a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Bichon Frise, according to dogtime.com
“Shire’s job is to just be here for the emotional and mental support, as well as academic progress,” Glunz told The Grand Island Independent. “There is a ton of research that shows that dogs in schools provide emotional and mental support for the students. Therapy dogs across the board will bring down your anxiety, bring down your blood pressure and increase focus.”
Glunz said Shire “really enjoys” passing periods where he is able to get out in the hallways and get “lots of attention” from students and staff.
GICC Principal Jordan Engle said he was excited to have Shire be a part of the school.
Engle said that last year was a tragic year for GICC as the school lost one of its own in October. The day after the loss, he said GICC had four therapy dogs from Lutheran Family Charities visit the school to comfort students and “it was a game changer.”
“The amount of stress relief and comfort that brought our kids was outstanding,” Engle said. “I really think it helped us get through that day in a pretty significant way. We cling to our faith quite a bit here, and that is No. 1, but having that option of being able to relieve stress that way was big.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic, Engle said, providing mental health services to students and staff is critical. He said Shire will help with this.
“We have to make sure that, from a mental health standpoint, we are taking care of our students and staff, and providing opportunities for people to relieve stress if needed and make sure they acknowledge their mental health,” Engle said. “Having a dog here is definitely a good thing.”
Engle said there has been “universally positive” feedback about having Shire at GICC.
“Our parents are very excited for this opportunity,” he said. “Our students are totally smitten with Shire.”