Thursday afternoons have gone to the dogs at Boston Middle School in Laporte, Indiana. Well, actually only one dog! Her name is Newdle and she is a licensed therapy dog. Newdle is part Newfoundland and part Standard Poodle. Her owner, Colleen Mellendy brings her to The Media Center at Boston Middle School every Thursday afternoon to work with the special needs students. She also is part of a Grief Counseling group for students experiencing a loss through death. Newdle and Mellendy were found through Therapy Dogs International. They also work with Hospice patients.
Prior to Newdle’s arrival at Boston, students were taught how to approach a dog. They were told to always ask the owner if they could pet them before they made physical contact. They were shown to approach a dog with the back of their hand and to let the dog get to know them by sniffing their hand. Students were also taught how to give treats to a dog with an open hand and not with their fingers. Newdle’s favorite treats are belly rubs!
Therapy dogs like Newdle can be used in a variety of stressful situations. They were used after the school tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The dogs offered a listening ear and unconditional love. They can be used in airports to help travelers who are anxious. They are also an integral part of the Champs Program, which brings therapy dogs into prisons. The Champs Program in Missouri uses a select group of female inmates to help train the dogs. Through their participation in the program, the participants learn positive interaction skills, gain job-related skills and are giving back to the community
According to an article called The Healing Power of Dogs in National Geographic News, “Simply petting a dog can decrease levels of stress hormones, regulate breathing, and lower blood pressure.
Research also has shown that petting releases oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding and affection, in both the dog and the human.
Along with the sense of calm that Newdle’s visits bring, Mellendy also peppers her visits with unique stories about dogs and history. She shared with the students how it happened that dalmations first began working with fire fighters. Newdle and Mellendy are a welcome addition to Thursday afternoons at Boston Middle School.
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About the Author:
Rose Sgambelluri has taught High School Business for over 20 years. She made the transition to Library Media Specialist 2 years ago and hasn’t looked back. She is currently employed as the Library Media Specialist at Boston Middle School in Laporte, Indiana. She has served as a consultant for the Laporte County Public Library; working in collection development, developing curriculum kits and training Library staff.