Therapeutic Dogs Bring Smiles Back to Hopkinton High School

amkarpacz

By Amanda Karpacz
HOPKINTON- In the midst of a difficult week at Hopkinton High School, staff and administration at Hopkinton High School arranged to bring in therapeutic dogs from the National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS) to comfort students and staff. Volunteers Liz Burke and Dawn Anderson brought their puppies, Sandy and Beacon, into the Guidance Office to be visited during the day.

“Everyone is excited to see the puppies, there are more people in this office then ever before, and everyone is leaving with a smile on their face,” said counseling office secretary Constance O’Loughlin.

“The puppies give a happy vibe, it gets your mind of the sad news…it’s the best medicine,” said Sara Freedman, a junior at Hopkinton High School.

The NEADS program is a nonprofit organization that trains dogs to grow into assistance dogs. “The dogs have 95% of their training done in prisons. On weekends, families volunteer to take these dogs home to socialize and learn new environments,” said NEADS volunteer Liz Burke.

The puppies are sold or donated by reputable breeders and animal shelters to the organization. The most common breed trained is a Labrador Retriever.

Burke’s six-month-old puppy was the first to arrive at 10:30am, and students lined up to pet her. Burke could see the impact this dog made, “One student came over and said, ‘ Just looking at her [Sandy] makes me feel better’ ”

“The puppies in the NEADS program are trained until they are 12 to 14 months old, they each have different skills, [and] after learning their strengths, they are assigned to someone that their skills will help,” explained the organizer of bringing the therapeutic dogs, Colleen Worrell.

Later in the day, Anderson brought in Beacon, her four-month-old black lab. She said, “The puppies definitely provide therapy and are good for your health.”

Students had their spirits lifted by spending some quality time with the therapeutic puppies brought in the week before winter break. Photo By: Mackenzie Britt
Students had their spirits lifted by spending some quality time with the therapeutic puppies brought in the week before winter break.
Photo By: Mackenzie Britt

Beacon lives with an inmate during the week; he goes to classes, recreation halls and dining halls. According to the NEADS website, they have partnerships with ten prison sites around New England. Each inmate handler must meet a certain criteria and make a year and a half commitment to train their puppy.

“The dog training part isn’t as important as socializing, the dog needs to get along with others and be able to go to different places,” said Dawn Anderson.

After three hours of attention, Sandy and Beacon both fell asleep surrounded by students and staff. Even while sleeping, these dogs brought continuous smiles the faces of grieving students.

“They [the puppies] took my mind off of everything that has been going on. The fact that they brought these in just to make us feel better put a smile on my face, it made the day much easier,” said Madison Lyman, a senior at Hopkinton High School.

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