Therapy dogs have been called “miracle workers” because of their calming effect on students in the classroom.
Bella, a 4-year-old registered therapy dog at Clements/Parsons Elementary School, is contributing to a positive climate of social and emotional learning.
Bella, a golden retriever, visits on Fridays and works with students in small groups and through individual counseling.
Bella is helping to build student confidence, assist with student emotional regulation, and provide a comfortable setting for students to read.
Students are allowed to spend individual time with Bella in exchange for making positive behavior choices.
In Bella’s three visits to the school, and she has already had more than 20 visits with students.
“I got to walk Bella. She’s a very calm dog. She lets you pet her,” third-grader Samantha Moore said. “I’m not afraid of her. I like her at our school.”
Bella has helped behaviorally challenged students by increasing self-esteem, socialization, and problem-solving skills simply with her calming presence and gentle interaction.
The opportunity to interact with her on an individual basis earned with good behavior is also an incentive for the students.
“I think Bella is a cute dog and she’s very gentle. She listens to you whenever you talk,” said third-grader Katelynn Burann
“If you play with a stuffed animal with her, she’ll play tug of war with you. She lets me pet her and she doesn’t growl.”
Students have learned schoolwide rules and expectations on how to interact with Bella.
No student is obligated to interact with Bella, and a letter went home to all parents allowing them to opt out their child from interactions with Bella.
The school has no parents or students who opted out, according to school officials.
“It was cool that Bella was in my class,” second-grader Andre Peyton said. “I petted Bella.”
Therapy dogs have been active in schools for the last few years.
Bella was introduced to Clements/Parsons Elementary in November. Williams/Ledger Elementary School got its therapy dog, Ayala, during the 2017-2018 school year.