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Therapy Dog Visits Farragut Middle School

Kids petting service dogHudson Valley's Paws for a Cause, a local non-profit organization, has recently teamed up with a class at Farragut Middle School taught by Larry Cerretani. The Animal Assisted Activity Program features a three-year-old chocolate labrador/shar-pei mix certified therapy dog named Harper, and her handler, Jackie. 

In Cerretani's first-period class, students had the chance to read a current events article to Harper, who is certified in the R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dog) program. During the read-aloud, Harper listened attentively to a story about the ECHO robot in Antarctica that is helping scientists learn more about emperor penguins. Cerretani’s class and the Harper-Jackie team also had the chance to walk around the school and get introduced to different staff members and students in the hallways.

The team plans to meet the class every other week and is looking into opportunities to expand the program. According to the organization’s website, “Clinical studies have proven that animals have the power to help people heal. Simply petting, touching or talking to animals can improve physical health and emotional well-being.”

service dog sitting on floorSeventh-grader David Lopez spoke about his experience with Harper.

“I read to her, took her for a walk, and it was relaxing,” he said. “Harper is PAWsome!”

Cerretani has seen the benefits of animal-assisted programs. The idea to partner with Paws for a Cause was sparked in a summer program, where one of his students has a guide dog. 

“I just always wanted to try it here at Hastings,” said Cerretani. “I’m thrilled that it’s finally happening and I know it will help students.”

Stay tuned for a behind-the-scenes video of Cerretani's class in next week's Hastings Happenings.