‘Pup Rally’ at School

State’s First Lady presents therapy dog

Submitted photos The Buckhannon-Upshur High School cheerleaders pose with Foster, a therapy dog presented to Buckhannon Academy Elementary School this week.

BUCKHANNON — West Virginia First Lady Cathy Justice took part in a “Pup Rally” at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School to celebrate the arrival of the state’s newest therapy dog.

The dog, whose name is Foster, was made available through the state’s Friends With Paws program. Therapy dogs are placed in school within Communities in Schools (CIS) counties where students are disproportionately affected by poverty, substance misuse, or other at-risk situations, and are in the greatest need of a support animal.

The Golden Labradoodle will serve as a healthy and friendly outlet for these students to address trauma and other social-emotional issues.

“Today is a special day because when you meet Foster, it’s like you’re meeting a new classmate at your school,” Justice, who spoke at the event remotely, said. “He is going to be your friend. He is someone who you can talk to and you can tell him anything. I am just so excited for you all.”

Therapy dogs provide comfort and support to people in various tense environments. They are trained to work in stressful environments.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sara Stankus, left, and Buckhannon Mayor Robbie Skinner speak at the event with Foster.

Buckhannon Mayor Robbie Skinner, Upshur Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sara Stankus and the Buckhannon-Upshur High School band and cheerleaders all turned out to help welcome Foster Wednesday afternoon.

The Friends With Paws program is a partnership between the Governor’s Office, the West Virginia Department of Education and CIS. Earlier this month, McDowell County received a dog through the program. Lewis County and Green Bank Elementary Middle School are both set to receive a dog in the near future.

The Nation Institute of Health found during a study published in 2019 that a dog’s presence in the classroom promotes positive mood and provides significant anti-stress effects on the body.

West Virginia Communities In Schools is a Nonprofit that delivered its first dog through the Friends with Paws program to Welch Elementary School earlier in the year. The program hopes to place at least 10 dogs in West Virginia school in 2022.


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