The Influence of a Soothing Therapy Dog at Pulaski Elementary School | Education



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PULASKI – Whether emotional outbursts in school-aged children are on the increase or not, one thing is for sure. Children love dogs, especially dogs trained to be friendly and calming. And for those who might doubt it, just ask Regan Roach, school resource manager for Lura M. Sharp Elementary, owner of River, a trained therapy dog.

“For the most part,” Roach said, the kids calm down “almost immediately. With one person, it takes a long time. With a dog, not so much.

The idea of ​​a therapy dog ​​for school came about rather casually, Roach explained.

“We had the pup anyway,” he said, “and I showed pictures of her to the principal and the superintendent, and we all talked about it. Then the idea occurred to me to bring him for therapy. Other people from the school put me in touch with a trainer. Her name is Hannah Masuicca and Hannah did all the training for free.

“So the idea came up, and I spoke with Sheriff Hilton, and the Sheriff was 100% behind. So we just finished training and waited until the dog was a year old, and so far I think it’s been a huge success. Children really respond to him, and there have been several instances where some of the children who were extremely upset calmed down almost immediately when the dog appeared. Some were upset, calmed down and stayed calm afterwards because I said I would bring the dog back in an hour as long as everything remained calm.

“It worked really well, really well,” Roach said. “It’s something to distract them from the issues at hand, and give them a chance to catch their breath and calm down, and have another run in the day.”

River seems very well suited to his role by nature.

“His demeanor and disposition are just perfect for this job,” Roach continued. “She loves nothing more than to sit down and be petted. And that’s what kids love. Even at one year old, he’s the calmest dog we’ve ever had.

River is a one-year-old cream English Golden Retriever and lives with Roach and his wife about four miles from the school. This can be helpful as River is currently only at school three days a week.

“We’re probably setting up on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday (hourly),” Roach said. “But, I live less than four miles from the school, so if she’s not there and she can help, my wife will run her quickly.” This is a good situation.

This will be his third year as a school resource manager.

He retired from the Syracuse Police in 2008.

“This place opened up and I decided it would be a good choice,” he said, “and I was right. It was.”

Roach is grateful to those who made this possible.

“It wouldn’t have happened without the manager, the superintendent and the sheriff. These three people really made it happen. So, I am very grateful to all three of them.

Sheriff Hilton said he has seen the benefits River has had for elementary school students in Pulaski and eventually would like to see more therapy dogs in schools.

“The report I get,” said Hilton, “is that we’ve had kids with emotional issues and, as soon as Agent Roach walks in with the dog, attention shifts from whatever ails them that We hope that this will serve as a pilot program and that we can distribute it to every elementary school, at least, in Oswego County. “

And then there’s Hannah. “She did all of this work for absolutely nothing,” said a grateful Roach. “She didn’t take a dime.”

And Hannah Masuicca seems very happy that she did.

“It was a lot of fun coaching River,” she said. “She is a great candidate to be a therapy dog. I am really excited to be working with her. She’s the sweetest dog, and she just loves getting into a crowd of kids, and she disappears. It is an awesome thing to see. Children absolutely light up when they see her.

Masuicca works at Applewood Boarding Kennel in Pulaski as a professional trainer.

“I have been a trainer for two years and have worked in the animal care industry for eight years. I went to National Canine in Ohio. It’s a dog training school, a six week program. I’ve learned to do anything from basic obedience to technological sensing and personal protection.

She has trained quite a few other therapy dogs, she said, and explained River’s training.

“It’s a lot of basic obedience to start with,” she said, “and then after you’re done working on leash walking and just good general behavior, you take her out more in public, and you are really working on how to meet a person calmly and how to interact properly. We usually go out to stores, like here in Pulaski, we went to ACE Hardware and Tractor Supply, wherever they let dogs in, and we went to each other just went to different workers, let her introduce herself and the workers really liked her too.

“The training lasted 10 months. We started when River was four months old. And she was trained until she entered this school. We’re actually doing a Canine Good Citizen test this Saturday, a test through AKC that’s basically testing how socialized she is. It will be through meeting a friendly stranger, reacting to different sounds, like a metal clatter, umbrellas opening, stuff like that, and grooming too. So she’s going to get brushed by a stranger and stuff in that general area.

River receives accreditation for passing this test with a blue ribbon.

Masuicca’s mother works at Lura M. Sharp Elementary School, so she went to see River. “It’s awesome,” she said. “She’s a great female dog.”

Masuicca trained River for free. For comparison, three weeks of training, essentially obedience training, at Applewood costs $ 1,500. She trained River for 10 months.

Masuicca said she was proud of how far she has come since she first met her.

“She used to eat small pebbles,” she said. “She would pick them up and carry them everywhere. “

River doesn’t do that anymore, Masuicca said. “She’s so mature now.”

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